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Health Care

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 27, 2014
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. WARREN. Mr. President, I thank Senator Schumer for his great leadership on this issue and his strong words.

I am pleased to join with my colleagues on the floor to speak about the positive impacts of the Affordable Care Act and the impact it is having on our Nation's health and particularly the health of our seniors.

We have all heard about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act in terms of increasing coverage: Over 4 million people have already signed up for the affordable private health insurance through the State and Federal exchanges, millions more have signed up for Medicaid coverage, and millions more young people are now able to stay on their parents' insurance policies until they are 26--and the numbers are growing.

But as important as these figures are, the Affordable Care Act isn't just about expanding coverage for the uninsured. It is also about improving the quality of care and the quality of coverage for all Americans, including our seniors.

Seniors in this country rely on the Medicare Program--and they should rely on the Medicare Program--because Medicare respects a promise that we made as a country to ensure that people who contribute to the program during their working years will have their health care needs taken care of after the age of 65. We have a duty to keep that promise, and we need to build on that promise.

To keep the promise of Medicare, we have to make sure the program stays afloat. The Affordable Care Act does this by improving the quality of care, by coordinating care, and by better delivering under Medicare so we reduce waste in the program and we use Medicare dollars in a way that improves health outcomes for our seniors.

The Republicans have a very different approach to Medicare solvency. They want to reduce benefits, they want to increase premiums and copays so it is harder for seniors to afford to go to a doctor, and they even want to end Medicare's guaranteed benefits entirely by turning it into a voucher system. Think about that: lower benefits, charge more, and end Medicare as we know it.

These approaches are wrong. They do not reflect our values, and they also don't reflect good policy because cutting Medicare benefits will not stop seniors from having heart attacks, it will not stop seniors from getting sick. It will just push them into emergency rooms and private insurance systems--which is more expensive and less efficient than Medicare--or, worse, it will prevent them entirely from getting the medical care they need.

Fortunately, the Republican vision is not the law of the land. The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, and it is already showing progress in improving the solvency of Medicare and the quality of care for our seniors.

We can already see how the accountable care organizations created under the Affordable Care Act are saving money. The pioneer accountable care organizations--five of which are now operating in Massachusetts--have already saved Medicare nearly $147 million while continuing to deliver high-quality care. New standards for hospital reimbursements have reduced the number of people who need to be readmitted, meaning that for seniors 130,000 fewer Medicare beneficiaries had to check back into a hospital last year.

Thanks to these and other changes, the Medicare trust fund will be solvent for nearly 10 years longer than was projected before we passed the Affordable Care Act. The results are clear. When it comes to our seniors, the Affordable Care Act is saving money and saving lives.

But the Affordable Care Act does more. It builds on the promise of Medicare by improving prevention coverage and reducing actual out-of-pockets for our seniors. Last year over 70 percent of seniors--25.4 million people in Medicare--visited their doctor and received a preventive service, such as a critical colonoscopy or a lifesaving mammogram. They received it for free because of the Affordable Care Act. Despite high drug prices, the average senior in America saved an average of $1,200 on their prescription drugs in 2013 because of the Affordable Care Act closing the doughnut hole in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

The Affordable Care Act has made these changes--reducing the cost for seniors, expanding benefits and reducing wasteful spending at the same time that we have improved the solvency of Medicare.

When I hear Republicans talk about repealing the Affordable Care Act, I wonder what alternative universe they are living in. In this real world there should be no confusion about what repealing the Affordable Care Act would actually mean for our seniors: higher costs for prescription drugs, higher costs for preventive services, reduced benefits, and a Medicare program that would go bankrupt nearly 10 years sooner.

The Affordable Care Act is working to help seniors with their expenses and to keep the costs of health care down. We need to improve and build on the progress the law has made and not argue over tearing it down. This should not be about politics. This should be about keeping the promise we made to our seniors. It is about building on that promise, and I will continue to fight for that.

I yield the floor.

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