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Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 17, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I come to the floor today to talk about the work of my good friend and colleague, the junior Senator from Georgia, Senator Kelly Loeffler. Republicans, including the Senator from Georgia, continue to put forward solutions to address one of our country's most pressing problems, and that, of course, is healthcare. As a doctor, I recognize that healthcare remains a top priority for families all across this great country.

Senator Loeffler also knows how important healthcare is to families, not just across her State of Georgia but to families all around America. She has a proposal. It is called Modernizing Americans' Health Care. It is a plan, and this plan is another example of the important contribution that she is making here in the Senate to the well-being of the entire Nation.

Her plan emphasizes that Americans with preexisting conditions must be protected. My colleague is absolutely right: Everyone knows someone with a preexisting condition. My own wife Bobbi is a breast cancer survivor. She has had three operations. She has had chemotherapy twice, and she has now survived that cancer by over 15 years. That is a preexisting condition.

Let there be no doubt: Republicans will always make sure that patients are able to get insurance regardless of their medical condition.

Senator Loeffler's plan also recognizes the need for more insurance choices. Americans need the coverage that works for them and their families. It should be available, affordable, and appropriate for them--what they need, not what the government says they have to have. Families need more options.

Association health plans let small businesses and community organizations come together with the buying power of large corporations. This helps lower the cost of care. Main Street, I believe, deserves the same opportunity to buy insurance as Wall Street, and that is what Senator Loeffler is proposing.

Her plan also lets consumers save more of their own money to pay for healthcare. Right now, as a result of the Obama healthcare law, Americans can only use a health savings account when it is tied to a high deductible healthcare plan. My colleague from Georgia wants to expand these accounts for anyone with health insurance coverage regardless of their type of insurance plan.

Everyone knows over the last year--since the Obama healthcare law was passed--that deductibles have continued to keep climbing. We need to give families relief by letting them save more of their own money tax- free through a health savings account. That way, families could use their money to pay for deductibles and other kinds of healthcare expenses that right now they are not allowed to do.

As a doctor, one thing in particular that I strongly support, of course, is direct primary care. We have it running successfully in my home State of Wyoming. That is when someone pays your healthcare provider a flat monthly fee instead of a fee every time you visit the doctor or the nurse or the nurse practitioner.

Consumers like this arrangement. They like it because it takes the uncertainty out of a doctor's visit. They always know what they are going to pay month to month to month. Providers like it because they get to focus on patients over all of the paperwork that is so often required by insurance companies.

I talk to doctors who are tired of practicing medicine and want to retire: What is it you don't like? They love taking care of patients, but they hate the paperwork that comes with it, so often related to the law, the mandates, and the things that happen with trying to comply with the insurance paperwork.

A lot more can be done, and we know this as a result of coronavirus in terms of providing healthcare using telemedicine. Especially, Madam President, in your home State and mine, where there are great distances and lots of rural communities, it is a great opportunity for people to receive healthcare from a distance, using the newest technology of the day.

I think we have seen much more about telemedicine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients have tried it. They like it. The providers I have talked to around the State of Wyoming like it a lot.

There have been issues in the past, though--the issues of how to reimburse and how many visits and the distance. And did they need to come into the office? Would it be covered by insurance? Would it be covered by Medicare? Would it be covered by Medicaid? All of these are issues--hassles--for the patient and the provider, but, to me, telemedicine is now here to stay.

These direct primary care practices truly have been on the leading edge of telemedicine because they didn't have to worry about insurance company reimbursements based on the number of face-to-face visits. They could just visit and talk to the patient using telemedicine.

Speaking of COVID-19, this plan also ensures that we continue fighting back against this virus. There is tremendous news today about the vaccines--two vaccines, one that is 90 percent effective and one that is 94 percent effective.

As a doctor, I will tell you, these are breakthroughs. These are modern-day miracles of medicine. If you think about it, not that long ago Dr. Fauci said that if we could get a vaccine that was 50 percent effective, that would be tremendous. But we are talking much, much higher rates of effectiveness than that.

My colleague in her proposal also calls for focus on something we can all support, and that is making drugs and personal protective equipment here in the United States--producing here at home in America. We need to bring the manufacturing of these critical supplies back to our own communities, certainly back to our country. Never again--never again-- should our patients and healthcare workers be held hostage by China or any other nation.

Senator Loeffler knows that Americans should not be the sole payers for the innovation that supports the rest of the world. My colleague's plan reinforces the fact that our trade policies must reflect when countries freeload off of American innovation.

Finally, she wants to make sure that pharmacy discounts benefit the patients, not large pharmacies' so-called benefit managers. This is a commonsense legislative proposal that will mean lower drug prices for patients who have to take expensive medications. When discounts go directly to patients, Americans will see much lower costs when they pay at the pharmacy counter.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what is in Senator Loeffler's proposal. But I am sure that in the days ahead, the Senate will have a chance to hear more about her important work on healthcare.

Mr. BARRASSO. I yield back the rest of our time.