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July 16, 2009

Johanns Calls For No Diversion Of Medicare Savings To New Program

Washington, DC

Below are remarks as prepared for delivery by Senator Mike Johanns regarding a resolution he filed today to ensure Medicare and Medicaid savings are returned to the ailing program instead of going to fund a new government-sponsored health care program.

Highlights of the speech as prepared for delivery:

"States are struggling to pay their Medicaid obligations and still balance their budgets. It's a tough job and definitely not for the faint of heart. The President is proposing to exacerbate the problem by creating another government-run entitlement program. Of course, in order to pay for this new program, he has identified cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid program."

"We have one soon-to-be bankrupt program that consumes a huge chuck of our health care spending today and the rushed reform would steal money from it to pay for a new health care program?... This is a vicious cycle and something you only see in Washington. The American people deserve a better effort than this."

"That is why the resolution that I'm introducing today is necessary to restore some semblance of sanity to this process. Simply put, this resolution says that if we find savings within the Medicare program, we should put those savings back into the Medicare program, instead of creating another government entitlement program. It also says that if we find savings within the Medicaid program, we should increase the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage to reduce the burden on state budgets."

"It's not practical to rob Peter to pay Paul, especially when both of them are flat broke."

Remarks as prepared for delivery by Senator Mike Johanns Regarding Health Care Legislation:

"The Medicare and Medicaid programs are the largest single purchaser of health care in the world. These programs account for over 20 percent of all U.S. federal government spending. More than 1 in every 5 taxpayer dollars we spend goes toward Medicare and Medicaid. By the time my kids become senior citizens, these two programs are projected to consume every dollar of tax revenue that is raised per year.

"Recently, the Medicare trustees reported that the Medicare program is projected to be bankrupt by 2017-two years earlier than was projected last year. Our ability to offer financial predictions provides little consolation to the senior citizens who depend upon this program to receive their medical care. For the millions of baby-boomers who are expecting the Medicare program to be there for them and their future health care needs, these projections are a message they'll be out of luck.

"Unfortunately, the Medicaid program outlook does not get much better. Medicaid is the largest source of general revenue spending on health care for both the Federal government and the States. In fact, Medicaid represents 40 percent of Federal government general revenue spending on health care and 41 percent of such spending by States. That is why as economic conditions have continued to worsen, state Medicaid budgets are increasingly crunched. States are struggling to pay their Medicaid obligations and still balance their budgets. It's a tough job and definitely not for the faint of heart.

"The President is proposing to exacerbate the problem by creating another government-run entitlement program. Of course, in order to pay for this new program, he has identified cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid program.

"Let's be crystal clear. We have one soon-to-be bankrupt program that consumes a huge chuck of our health care spending today and the rushed reform would steal money from it to pay for a new health care program? Seriously? This is a vicious cycle and something you only see in Washington. The American people deserve a better effort than this.

"You see, in the real world, when budgets get tight, leaders have to make tough decisions. Programs are scrutinized with a fine tooth comb to find out where savings can be found. If savings are identified, that money is used to shore up programming shortfalls and keep the current program viable. You don't see new programs created as existing programs fall deeper into the red. You see people and programs rolling up their sleeves, prioritizing programs, and scrutinizing every dollar in order to fulfill current obligations. This is how we should do business here in Washington.

"That is why the resolution that I'm introducing today is necessary to restore some semblance of sanity to this process. Simply put, this resolution says that if we find savings within the Medicare program, we should put those savings back into the Medicare program, instead of creating another government entitlement program. It also says that if we find savings within the Medicaid program, we should increase the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage to reduce the burden on state budgets.

"These are practical, common-sense sentiments that most Americans would agree with. If we identify true savings within these current entitlement programs, then I propose we fulfill our promises to the millions of Americans who will be relying upon these important programs. After all, it's not practical to rob Peter to pay Paul.

"Especially when both of them are flat broke."

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