12.11.09

A Message from Senator Burr

This week, the Senate continued debate on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Throughout this debate, numerous amendments have been offered by members from both sides of the aisle, but very few have been adopted. At last count, 393 amendments have been offered to this bill but only 16 have received a vote. A tiny percentage of the amendments offered will ever get a vote because of procedurals blocks.

The majority of the amendments considered so far have focused on the Medicare cuts in the bill.Americans have been repeatedly promised that "if you like your current plan, you can keep it." Unfortunately, objective analysis by economists and actuaries have confirmed that this is not the case under this bill, especially for seniors who have chosen a Medicare Advantage plan. According to a report released last night by the official government actuary of the Medicare program, the Reid bill would cut payments to Medicare Advantage plans by approximately $110 billion over 10 years, resulting in "less generous benefit packages" and decreasing enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans by about 33 percent. Last weekend, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) offered an amendment to stop these cuts to Medicare Advantage, but his amendment was rejected on a 41-57 vote.

Meanwhile, Majority Leader Reid told reporters this week that he had quietly negotiated a new proposal with liberal and moderate Democrats that would enable him to secure the 60 votes he needs to pass this legislation out of the Senate. This latest proposal, which has not been released publicly or shared with the other side of the aisle, would apparently drop the public option and instead expand eligibility for Medicare. The proposal would allow Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into Medicare for coverage. With Medicare scheduled to become insolvent in less than 8 years, I fear such a proposal would only hasten Medicare's insolvency and further jeopardize seniors access to care, especially when done on top of the nearly $500 billion in Medicare cuts contained in the bill. Medicare is going broke. We should be strengthening the program for current and future seniors, not jeopardizing its existence by using the trust fund and the taxes paid into it to expand government.

I will continue to oppose this bill until we can come together on real solutions that lower health care costs and help American access quality and affordable health care. I support health reform, but the health bill currently before the Senate is not the solution.

In other news, the President announced this week that he would like to use up to $200 billion in TARP funds for more stimulus spending. I do not support this proposal. I believe all unspent or repaid TARP funds should be used to reduce our deficit, just as the American people were promised. Rather than continuing the spending spree and adding to the national debt, Congress and the Administration need to prioritize spending and start making the same difficult decisions that American families are making across the country.

Yesterday, the Senate on a largely party-line vote decided to set aside the health care bill in order to debate an omnibus appropriations bill over the weekend. This bill increases spending in government programs by 12% and contains 5,224 earmarks totaling $4 billion. I do not support this legislation and intend to vote against it. The debate on the health care bill is expected to resume on Monday. It is also expected that Congress will consider a proposal by the Administration to increase the debt limit by $1.8 trillion.