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Health-Care Overhaul 2010

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Opening Statement of Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Markup of the America's Healthy Future Act

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We also see the United States having shorter than average life expectancies compared to other industrialized countries; and one of the highest rates of medical errors. And a key reason for that is that we have not adopted electronic medical doctors which most of the rest of the industrialized world has.

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When we look at the Baucus plan and the key elements: it promotes choice and competition; reduces deficits and controls costs; expands coverage to 94 percent of the American people; and, improves the quality of care.

The initial CBO analysis shows that this will reduce the deficit by $49 billion over the next 10 years. And over the next 10 years, it would bend the cost curve in the right way, unlike any other proposal before Congress. This proposal bends the cost curve in the right way by one-half of one percent of GDP over the second 10 years. That means $1.3 trillion of savings. Let me repeat that. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in the second 10 years, this proposal would bend the cost curve in the right way by $1.3 trillion.

Finally, there is no government-run health care in this proposal; no benefit cuts for seniors; no coverage for illegal immigrants; no death panels; no federal funding for abortion services. This is a mainstream proposal that moves in the right direction.

Let me just conclude for my progressive friends who believe that the only answer to getting costs under control and having universal coverage is by a government-run program. I urge my colleagues to read the book by T.R. Reid, "The Healing of America."

I had the chance to read it this weekend. He looks at the health care systems around the world. And what he found is in many countries they have universal coverage. They contain costs effectively. They have high quality outcomes, in fact higher than ours. They're not government-run systems in Germany, in Japan, in Switzerland, in France, in Belgium -- all of them contain costs, have universal coverage, have very high quality care and yet are not government-run systems.

So it is entirely possible to do the things that I think most of us want to do and not have to have a government-run system. My own belief is that these other systems fit the culture of the United States more closely than does those who rely on government-run operations. So, it is there for us. We have an opportunity to do something extraordinarily important for this country. We need to seize the opportunity.

Mr. Chairman, you have given us a good start.


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