Mr. President, I rise to express my support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and to encourage my colleagues to support this effort to address our health care system's immediate and long-term challenges in a fiscally responsible manner.
For decades, attempts have been made to reform the way our health care system works, but only incremental changes have been made. The result is a broken system where costs are rising out of control and millions of Americans are priced out of the health insurance market.
In the last 8 years, health care premiums have grown four times faster than wages. If health care costs continue to rise at the current rates, without reform, it is projected that the average South Dakota family will be paying nearly $17,000 in yearly premiums by 2016. That is a 74-percent increase over the current premium costs that so many already struggle to afford.
Throughout the ongoing health reform discussion, I have heard from far too many South Dakotans who currently face barriers in accessing quality health care. This can be due to exorbitant out-of-pocket costs, having no insurance coverage, being denied coverage by insurance companies, or limited or no health care providers in their area. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act addresses these barriers in part by extending access to affordable and meaningful health insurance to all Americans.
This legislation stands up on behalf of the American people and puts an end to insurance industry abuses that have denied coverage to hard-working Americans when they need it most.
Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage for preexisting conditions and will not be able to drop coverage just because a patient gets sick. Reform will ensure that families always have guaranteed choices of quality, affordable health insurance whether they lose their job, switch jobs, move, or get sick.
The bill allows Americans to shop for the best health care plan to meet their needs and provides tax credits to help those who need assistance. It strengthens our health care workforce, improves the quality of care, and reduces waste, fraud, and abuse in the health care system.
Every American is adversely affected in some fashion by the shortcomings of our existing system, and far too many have a false sense of security. The system costs us lives, and it costs us money. If we fail to act, health care costs will consume a greater and greater share of our Nation's economy and have tremendous potential to cripple our Nation's future.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act puts our Nation on a more sustainable financial path. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that this health reform bill will reduce the Federal deficit by $130 billion in the next 10 years and as much as $650 billion in the decade after that. CBO also projects that this bill will result in health care coverage for more than 94 percent of legal residents in our Nation. Our citizens deserve this basic security, while improving current Medicare benefits.
This bill is the product of months of research, committee deliberation, and bipartisan negotiation. I have listened to some of my colleagues' claims that they support health reform yet object to this approach. These protests echo those made nearly 50 years ago when a new program called Medicare was proposed to provide meaningful health benefits to seniors. The increasing cost of health care is unsustainable and the do-nothing approach hurts all Americans by robbing us of this historic opportunity to stop talking about the problems and finally find a solution.
This bill is not perfect, but a ``yes'' vote will allow the conference committee a chance to improve it. The United States is the only Nation among industrialized democracies to not have some form of national health care. Yet the Senate Republican Party is attempting to deny us the right to vote this historic legislation up or down. They want to kill it even before it has the chance to go to conference.
I urge my colleagues to support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.