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GOP leader: Truth catches up to Democrats on health care

By Mitch McConnell, Special to CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • McConnell says pollsters have advised Democrats to stop saying health law will cut costs
  • He says experts have disputed administration claims law will reduce deficit
  • McConnell says Democrats should shelve the law and start over
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Editor's note: Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate.

(CNN) -- For more than a year, Democrats in Washington have turned a deaf ear to the American people when it comes to health care.

Americans told lawmakers in Washington that they wanted reforms that would lower costs; Democrats in Congress increased them. They said they wanted Medicare protected; Democrat leaders used it as a piggy bank, cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare to help pay for this massive new government expansion of health care. They said they wanted reforms that would enable them to keep the plans they had; Democrats in Washington ignored that request, too.

And while the president promised that "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan," yet another independent report came out Wednesday showing that to be just another broken promise.

According to The Associated Press, the analysis projects that more than 3 million Medicare beneficiaries will see their prescription plan eliminated, with people forced to choose a different plan.

This is just the latest in a series of independent analyses debunking the misleading claims made by the administration when it was pitching this health spending bill.

Along with most Americans, the entire Republican conference opposed this legislation. We listened to the public and argued strenuously against its passage at every opportunity. We offered detailed reasons for our opposition, along with common-sense alternative reforms aimed at lowering the cost of health care without undermining the system that we have.

The American people want reform. The question is, what kind of reform are they getting: a reform that cuts costs and expands access or a so-called reform that leads to a government takeover where premiums are increased but health care is delayed, denied and rationed?

During the debate, Republicans proposed a series of reforms to lower costs and improve access without destroying what people like about our health care system.

Congress should be able to work together on our practical ideas that the American people support, such as reforming our medical liability laws to discourage junk lawsuits; improving Medicare's finances by, among other protections, not cutting a half-trillion dollars while promising those same funds to seniors, as the Congressional Budget Office warned would happen under the health spending bill; encouraging wellness and prevention programs that have proved to be effective in cutting costs and improving care; encouraging more robust competition in the private insurance market; and addressing the needs of small businesses through new ideas that won't kill jobs in the middle of a recession.

Yet now we hear that the same Democrats who have been ignoring their constituents on health care are suddenly listening to their favorite pollsters on the issue. Last week, word leaked of a secret polling briefing designed to help Democrats and their allies sell a skeptical public on their health care plans. Its conclusion: It's time to give up on convincing people the Democrat health care bill will actually reduce costs or the deficit.

Now they tell us. For more than a year, President Obama warned that unless his plan was adopted, rising health care costs would destroy the economy, even as his administration's own experts at the Department of Health and Human Services warned that the new health care law would actually increase health care spending. They said the only way the Democrat plan could be said to reduce the deficit would be to use double-counting gimmicks, the type of accounting methods that would make an Enron executive blush.

These same pollsters also caution Democrats to reassure seniors that Medicare will not be cut. But that too will be a tough sell, since the new law takes more than $500 billion from Medicare to pay for an entirely new government program and since we already know that millions of seniors will be forced from Medicare Advantage plans they already have and like.

These cuts are so severe, Medicare's own actuary warns, "providers for whom Medicare constitutes a substantive portion of their business could find it difficult to remain profitable and, absent legislative intervention, might end their participation in the program."

In other words, the law could jeopardize access to care. Maybe that's why the pollsters warn their liberal allies, "Women in particular are concerned that health law will mean less provider availability -- scarcity an issue."

It doesn't take a pollster to show that Americans don't like the new health care bill. And maybe that's why Democrat strategists, as reported Friday on CNN.com, are telling their candidates not to talk about their health care votes, even as Republicans increasingly are. But hopefully, this latest poll will finally get Democrats in Washington to listen to what their constituents have been saying and convince them to throw this bill out and start over on the kinds of step-by-step reforms Americans really want.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sen. Mitch McConnell.