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Sen. Mitch McConnell on Health-Care Reform
Remarks from the Senate Floor

Office of Sen. Mitch McConnell
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 1:36 PM

Americans are increasingly frustrated with the U.S. health care system as we know it -- and they expect real reform, not just the promise of a reform that never comes, or the illusion of a reform that ends up destroying what's good about the current system and replacing it with something worse.

Americans don't think basic medical procedures should break the bank, and they don't understand why millions of Americans have to go without basic care in a nation as prosperous as our own. Still, many Americans are quite happy with the health care they currently have, and they don't want to be forced onto a government plan they don't like.

So the need for reform is not in question. The real question is what kind of reform -- the kind that makes care more affordable and accessible; or the kind that makes existing problems worse.

One thing most people like about health care in the U.S. is the quality of cancer care that's available here. Far too many Americans die from cancer. Yet for all the problems we have, the fact is, America boasts some of the highest cancer survival rates in the world. And that's not the kind of thing Americans want to see change. But it could very well change if the U.S. adopts a government-run health care system along the lines of the one some are proposing.

A recent study comparing U.S. cancer survival rates with other countries found that, on average, U.S. women have a 63% chance of living at least five years after a cancer diagnosis compared to a 54% rate for women in Britain. As for men, 66% of American males survive at least five years while 45% of British men do.

Just as important as treatment is early detection. And here again, the U.S. routinely out performs countries with government-run health care systems. According to one report, 84% of women between the ages of 50 and 64 get mammograms regularly in the United States -- far higher than the 63% of women in the United Kingdom. Access to preventative care is extremely important and, frankly, when it comes to breast cancer, preventative care is something we do quite well in the U.S.

These are the kinds of things Americans like about our system, and these are the kinds of things that could change under a government plan. Americans don't want to be forced off their existing plans, and they certainly don't want a government board telling them which treatments and medicines they can and cannot have.

It's no mystery why Americans have higher cancer survival rates than their counterparts in countries like Great Britain. Part of the reason is that Americans have greater access to the care and the medicines they need. And they don't want that to change. All of us want reform, but not reform that denies, delays, or rations health care. Instead, we need reform that controls costs even as it protects patients.

Some ways to do this would be by discouraging the junk medical liability lawsuits that drive up the cost of practicing medicine and limit access to care in places like rural Kentucky; through prevention and wellness programs that reduce health care costs, such as programs that help people quit smoking, fight obesity, and get early diagnoses for disease; and we could control costs and protect patients by addressing the needs of small businesses without imposing mandates or taxes that kill jobs.

All of us want reform. But the government-run plan that some are proposing for the U.S. isn't the kind of change Americans are looking for. We should learn a lesson from Canada. At a time when some in the U.S. want government-run health care, Canada is instituting reforms that would make their system more like ours.

According to Canadian-born doctor David Gratzer, the medical establishment in Canada is in revolt, with private sector options expanding and doctors frustrated by government cutbacks that limit access to care. And the "New York Times" reported a few years ago that private clinics were opening in Canada at a rate of about one a week. Dr. Gratzer asks a simple question: 'Why are [Americans] rushing into a system of government-dominated health care when the very countries that have experienced it for so long are backing away?' Many Americans are beginning to ask themselves the same thing.

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