Controlling the Runaway Costs of Health care

Madam President, a week ago, freshmen democratic senators
came to this floor to discuss as a group how our current health care system is
broken and unsustainable.

Today, we return to address the challenge of runaway
costs and how health care reform can bend the cost curve, making health care
more affordable and more accessible to our families and our businesses.

Now, many folks have said to me, is this really the time
to take on the health care reform, when we are in the middle of the worst
recession since the great depression?  The
answer is an unequivocal yes.

Now is the time.  Now
is the time, because health care costs are a runaway train making great damage
on our families, our small businesses and our large businesses.   Indeed, consider the situation with a family:
when health care costs have doubled in the last nine years.  So, families that could afford insurance just
a few years ago cannot afford it today.  And
now health care premiums are rising even faster.  They’re expected to double in the next six to
seven years.  As a result, many families
and individuals who are struggling to pay those health care premiums right now
won’t be able to do so in just a few more years.

So, fixing our broken health care system cannot wait.  Indeed, reform is essential to our families,
our small businesses and our large businesses.

Consider this:  for
a working family every additional dollar that goes into a health care premium
comes out of the wages that would otherwise go to increase the family’s
purchasing power.  So rising health care
premiums really are a tax on family wages, a tax on family purchasing power,
making it much harder for our families to get ahead and for them to provide for
their children and establish a high quality of life.

Now, controlling costs is also essential to small
businesses.  Small businesses want to
offer health coverage to attract and keep good employees and to do what is
right for their employee’s quality of life.   
runaway costs are making that more and more difficult.

Consider the example of the Hawthorne Auto Clinic founded
and operated by Jim Houser and his wife Liz Dally.  When they opened 26 years ago, Jim and Liz
were committed to offering those who worked for them and with them a good benefits
package, including comprehensive health care.  They are still able to provide health insurance
to their employees, but it is getting tougher.  Premiums have gone from 9% of their payroll to
18% in just the last five years.  As a
result, they’ve had to cut back on the benefits they have offered.  Over the last decade health care premiums
have skyrocketed for small businesses across the board just like they have for
Hawthorne Auto Clinic.  

Large businesses see the effect as well.  If you build a car in America, it costs $1,500
in health care.  If you build that same
car across the border in Canada or Europe, the cost is zero.  In fact, in 2007, G.M. spent more on health
care than they did on steel.  Controlling
costs is essential for our large businesses to be competitive in the world and
to build products here in America.  If
we don’t build products in America, we will not have a middle class in America.

Madam President, health care reform cannot wait.  Our families need help with runaway costs.  Our small businesses are looking to us to
help control costs.  Our large businesses
need reform to be competitive in the world and to build the strong economy that
will raise all boats.