Rep. Anthony Weiner on the costs of repealing President Obama's health care bill

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Yesterday Rep. Anthony Weiner proposed an amendment to the repealing of last year's health care bill that would require the extra costs incurred to be paid for, with a short 5-minute speech that was soon uploaded to YouTube. Since I think the points he made there deserve to be seen before a wider audience, I reuploaded the video and added subtitles, in order to make it easier to understand for: 1) the deaf; 2) those that have learned English as a second language; 3) non-English speakers that would benefit from a more accurate automatic translation.

I may redo the timing of the captions in order to give them a smoother flow, but not just this moment as I have to go out the door. At the moment each chunk is a bit too large and the automatic division of text it has done to compensate it sometimes means it will skip ahead to the next part before you have had the chance to hear the corresponding audio. In the meantime the entire transcript is below as well so just keep that in your view if you don't enjoy the sometimes sudden transitions.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Many of my colleagues are offering amendments dealing with the substance of the health care act we passed, and the problems it would cause if it was repealed. But I want to try to address an amendment that I and Mr. Van Hollen are going to be offering that addresses, I think, the crux of the agenda of the new Congress. And that is the idea that we need to reduce deficits and reduce costs. Not only for the federal taxpayers, but also for state and local taxpayers, and of course for citizens and families in their homes.

Our amendment is a simple one. It simply says that the costs that will be incurred have to be paid for in the bill. This is a classic pay-as-you-go, or cut-as-you-go, whatever (term) you are using this year. It says that if you want to take an action, whether it's to pass a law, whether it's to change a law, amend a law, that it should be fully paid for. It's something that I have heard repeatedly articulated by my Republican colleagues, and frankly those of us on the Democratic side have already articulated in the form of the pay-as-you-go rules that were set up.

Now, I do need to ask for unanimous consent that my amendment be amended, because this morning the number went from $143 billion dollars that this bill would cost. It went up to $230 billion dollars according to the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) estimates. And just for my newer colleagues, and frankly all of us should be reminded, why repealing this law costs money. First, it costs money to the taxpayer because the uninsured and those that are underinsured wind up getting health care; this is not a bill that provides them with health care, it's simply a bill that says how we're going to pay for health care and what the standards shall be. So when people are uninsured, and they go into hospital emergency rooms and get care, it costs all of us a lot more money to pay for those costs. Because, frankly, ladies and gentlemen, the "bill fairy" doesn't come in and pay for those costs, we all wind up doing it.

So the basic structure of this law says "You know what? It's actually less expensive for us to provide a subsidy for the uninsured to buy insurance, than it is for us to keep paying for them in hospital emergency rooms." So when you repeal this act, what do you do? You basically say that those protections will no longer be there, we're going to revert to paying for people when they come to the hospital emergency rooms; that costs the taxpayers money. This (President Obama's health care bill) saves money for families in a different way. When there are more people who are insured, just like in automobile insurance where everyone is insured, it allows insurance companies using free market principles to aggregate their costs over a greater universe of people, all of our costs come down. That's not me saying it, that's the insurance industry saying it, and that is the CBO saying it. So you've got to make up that cost somewhere.

And then there's the cost to our states and localities -- and this is the important thing that I think my colleagues need to understand -- you can say all you want, that "we're going to slash this bill and leave it to the states", but what winds up happening is if someone gets hit by a bus, who is uninsured, in a small town or in a big city in the United States, and they wind up going to hospital emergency rooms to get paid for, very often those costs fall largely on state and local taxpayers. So this insurance -- the structure of our bill would protect those state and local insurance costs, so now a city like mine, eight billion dollars we pay for the uninsured and the underinsured. This bill kicks in, (and) that dramatically goes down. It's not me saying it, it's the Congressional Budget Office.

So what this -- what the amendment says, is a simple one. It says "you may agree with some of my colleagues here about the individual things. You may believe that they're good or that they're bad. But however you believe, you should back up your vote with an actual "pay for it". To say "this is how we're going to pay for the bill."" And let me say one...concluding thing. You know...I'm asking unanimous consent that on line 9, "143 billion" be struck and "230 billion" be inserted. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. According to the CBO, we will save
one half of one percent (0.5%) of GDP, almost in perpetuity, because of the new effect of this bill. That is 1.2 trillion dollars. 1.2 trillion dollars of savings that are arriving from this bill.

And I'll make one final point -- I neglected to offer congratulations to you, Mr. Dreier, congratulations on taking over this committee again. I have heard a lot of talk about the "government takeover of health care". Let me make it very clear, because this is said so often I
think we sometimes forget what this bill does. This bill takes government taxpayer money and gives it to a private entity, the insurance companies. It's taking our money and giving subsidies so that they can buy insurance. It's the opposite of a government takeover.

And by the way, just the same way, Medicare isn't a government takeover because you still have your individual doctors and your payments, it's only a matter of how that money gets processed. So I believe that if you are sincere about cutting costs you will have to vote -- allow this amendment to be in order, and you would have to vote in favor of it, and by the way, I think it's the reasonable, consistent thing to do. 233 billion dollars is what it's going to cost
you to repeal this over ten years. That, by the way, is 200 billion dollars more than you've commited to saving in this entire congress.

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