Price Opening Statement at H.R. 3630 Conference Committee, First Meeting
(Remarks as Prepared)
Good afternoon, Chairman Camp, Conference Committee members.
It is refreshing that we are here today, utilizing a Conference Committee – as is done under regular order – to work out differences between the House and Senate legislation. There’s absolutely no denying that we have differences on how to fulfill our responsibility – however, there should be no disagreement on the need to restore a modicum of certainty for job creators, families, doctors, and seniors.
The current pervasive lack of certainty across this country is having a remarkably negative impact on our economy and on the general trust the American people have in Washington. So with our actions in this committee and in the weeks ahead, we can help to restore some certainty and regain some trust.
A lot of the focus, rightfully so, on our committee has been on the temporary payroll tax holiday extension and unemployment benefits. We need to find a resolution to our differences on those issues and ensure they do not add to our debt or further endanger the solvency of Social Security. We do current seniors and future generations no service by increasing the likelihood of a fiscal nightmare in Social Security.
That being said, our focus there should not diminish the importance of finding a common sense, responsible agreement on how to move forward with the sustainable growth rate formula – the SGR – which determines how much doctors are paid to treat Medicare patients – and by extension, all patients. This is about caring for our nation’s seniors – ensuring their access to quality, affordable health care. That’s not an issue that should take a back seat or be compromised.
In the House legislation, we called for a two year “fix” to the SGR to stave off a nearly 30% cut to payments rates. A 30% cut would do severe damage to the ability of doctors to treat Medicare patients – and all patients – and for Medicare patients to access care.
This comes when nearly one out of every three primary care doctors are limiting the number of Medicare patients that they see. Furthermore, the President’s Health Plan passed into law, unless changed, will take more than $500 billion out of the current Medicare program and put in place an unelected board of bureaucrats who will decide what care they’ll pay doctors to provide for seniors. This is just plain wrong and will compromise the care patients receive.
A two-year, temporary SGR “fix” is by no means a solution to the payment formula issue. I have joined many of our colleagues and have been fighting for a long-term solution and complete repeal of the current SGR formula. A two-year temporary fix does, however, provide a little breathing room.
The House legislation presents a stronger level of certainty for our seniors and their doctors. That should be the overriding purpose of these negotiations. Certainty. Certainty for families, small business owners, job creators, physicians, and seniors.
If we are able to agree on a temporary fix for the Medicare payment formula as well as a way forward on the other pressing issues, we will run up against the reality of how to ensure we are not adding to the debt or the future insolvency of the Social Security program. One idea from our Democratic colleagues proposed in the past has been a tax increase on hardworking taxpayers and job creators. Such an idea is clearly not sound economic policy.
We should not be taking more money out of the economy and thereby decreasing the private capital available to grow enterprises and create jobs. In addition to the damage this would do from an economic standpoint, it is an idea that has already been rejected by the Senate and simply cannot pass in the House.
One item that ought to be revisited and which was part of both the House and Senate bill is the Keystone XL pipeline project. There is bipartisan disappointment with the administration’s decision not to move forward with this project. It would create tens of thousands of jobs and help enhance our energy security.
There ought to be a way to get this done for the American people and sooner rather than later. There is simply no reason to have our ally, Canada, negotiating with China for distribution and transport of these resources. This is a bipartisan issue; it ought to be considered as part of a bipartisan compromise.
American families and small businesses need greater certainty. Seniors need to know that Medicare will provide them access to quality care and that their doctors will be able to see them. We can get this done on behalf of the American people and do so in an orderly fashion through regular order. I look forward to working with my colleagues and getting an agreement that promotes certainty and jobs.