February 14,2001

Grassley Statement on Health Issues

Opening Comments of Sen. Chuck Grassley, of Iowa
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance
Briefing on Health Issues
Wednesday, February 14, 2001

I'd like to thank everyone for joining Senator Baucus and me today. As you know, our new President has outlined an ambitious agenda to address many of our nation's health care concerns. Modernizing Medicare and including an affordable prescription drug benefit, reducing the number of uninsured Americans in this country, and helping to lower the costs of long-term care, these are all priorities for our new administration. And they'll be priorities for the Finance Committee as well.

We want our process to be transparent in Finance, for folks to know what we intend to work on. And that's why we've asked you all to join us today. There should be no question in anyone's mind that I intend to work with each and every member of this committee to find solutions to these tough health care problems. And I know the good senator from Montana intends to do the same. It's this very commitment that we have, to really work in an inclusive and bipartisan fashion, that is exciting and drives us to really get something done this year.

It should be no surprise that crafting Medicare legislation is a high priority, legislation that takes steps to modernize the program and include a prescription drug benefit that seniors can afford. But we have many other responsibilities as well. We need to uncover the reasons that 43.5 million Americans go without health care coverage today and identify the solutions that work best to solve this problem. We must take a closer look at the long-term care problems that plague this country and determine what steps we can begin to take right away. I think my own long-term care legislation is a great place to start. We must provide proper oversight of our federal health programs and ensure the hundreds of new provisions recently passed are implemented properly and that the billions of new taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently, not wasted.

Whether it's crafting Medicare legislation, uncovering the problems of the uninsured, or preparing for re-authorization of the welfare reform legislation for next year - this committee will be working on it. We'll be holding hearings in March to address the financing of Medicare,

changes in long-term growth assumptions, and budgetary impacts of a prescription drug benefit.

We'll also hold hearings on the uninsured and long-term care early in the year. And we'll follow with Medicare modernization and prescription drug hearings that will take us through May.

We have an enormous responsibility to taxpayers and the millions of Americans who rely on our federal health programs. We have a hearty agenda, no doubt, but it is one we intend to make progress on with the help of all of our committee members in a bipartisan fashion.