October 15, 2009

Udall: Reform Will Help America Achieve 'Best Health Care System in World'

Speech is Third in a Series on Health Care by Senate's Freshman Class

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-NM, and seven of his fellow freshman senators today took to the floor of the U.S. Senate for the third in a series of speeches to highlight the need for health insurance reform. This week, the senators used their remarks to dispel myths promoted by opponents of reform who want to impede change and maintain the status quo.

Udall used his time to dispel the myth that reform isn’t necessary because the United States already has the greatest health care system in the world.

“When 80 million people are either uninsured or underinsured, there is no way a country can lay claim to that title,” Udall said. “But there’s something we can do about it. With this reform, we have an opportunity to build on the strengths of the U.S. health care system while also addressing its weaknesses.”

 

 

“Today, we’re talking about myths. Inaccuracies, deliberate exaggerations, and outright lies have abounded over the months we’ve been debating health care reform. Some have been dreamed up by those who stubbornly cling to the status quo. Others reflect fears lying just beneath the surface.

“If you step back, it’s easy to see these scare tactics for the lies they are. But for the Americans who will be most impacted by this reform, it may be difficult to separate fact from fiction.

“The myth I’d like to talk about today is a bit different from the others being discussed by my colleagues. It’s a myth that existed long before the current debate, but it’s being used in a new way by people fighting this reform. They’re using it as a weapon against change.

“It’s a myth you’ve all heard. It’s the myth that reform isn’t necessary because we have the greatest health care system in the world.

“What makes this myth different from the others is that parts of it are absolutely true.

“Americans are blessed with some of the best doctors and nurses and health care professionals in the world. Hardworking men and women who have dedicated their lives to the health and healing of others – but often work in difficult situations. Our technology is unmatched. Our emergency care system is repeatedly cited as the best of the best. And we rank highly regarding the levels of dignity and respect with which patients are treated.

“But all of these achievements – as great as they are – don’t add up to the best health care system in the world for all Americans.

“Not as long as we’re spending $2.4 trillion a year on medical care, but continue to rank near the bottom when it comes to premature deaths from diseases like diabetes, stroke and pneumonia. Not when we spend twice as much of our GDP on health care as Japan and the UK, but have lower life expectancy at birth. Not when we rank last in infant mortality among industrialized countries. And not when half of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are related to medical bills.

“Right now in America, if you’ve got the money, you’ve got access to the best health care your money can buy. For the vast majority of Americans, that access isn’t there. If you’re a small business employee or laid-off from a job or someone with a pre-existing condition, the “best health care system in the world” is much harder to come by.

“When 80 million people are either uninsured or underinsured, there is no way a country can lay claim to that title.

“But there’s something we can do about it. With this reform, we have an opportunity to build on the strengths of U.S. health care system while also addressing its weaknesses.

“Comprehensive health reform will go a long way toward remedying these and other inequalities, and reducing the health disparities between rich and poor, majority and minority.

“The solution isn’t always spending more money. Sometimes it’s about making better use of the money we’re already spending, and about finding ways to achieve better returns on our investment.

“The reforms we’re proposing would allow us to do that – by ridding the system of waste, by increasing our investment in prevention, by helping small businesses afford insurance for their employees, and by covering more individuals whose only medical option right now is expensive emergency room visits.

“The status quo is unsustainable. But that’s just what reform opponents are hoping to continue with myths like those we’re discussing today.

“America has the potential, the talent and the technology to achieve the best health outcomes in the world. Whether we reach that goal depends on the actions we take now.”