« PreviousContinue »
STATEMENT OF HONORABLE THOMAS J. DOWNEY
MARCH 5, 1990
"IN POOR HEALTH
I regret that I am unable to join the Chairman and other
members of the Select Committee on Aging for this morning's
hearing on the Federal commitment to vulnerable Americans.
Unfortunately, I had previously scheduled a hearing of the
Subcommittee on Human Services, "Meeting the Needs of the Frail
An Oversight Hearing", in Clearwater, Florida for this
morning and was unable to reschedule the hearing at this late
I particularly want to extend my apology to Secretary
Sullivan for my absence this morning.
I appreciate that he has a
very full schedule and that he has always been willing to appear
before Congress to explain his agenda and hear our concerns.
I also want to take this opportunity to commend Secretary
Sullivan for having the temerity to take on the tobacco industry.
His moral leadership and plain speaking on this important issue
is an inspiration to all of us and brings to mind the efforts of
one of his illustrious predecessors, Joseph Califano.
The Select Committee on Aging has long been concerned with
improving access to, and the quality of, health care for all
Americans, regardless of age.
The Committee has also, to its
credit, taken a broad view of health care.
One has only to look
at the work of its subcommittees to see that the Committee has
always sought to include consideration of income, employment,
human services, housing and consumer issues in a holitistic
approach to health care.
This year, we will celebrate the
twenty-fifth anniversary of the older Americans Act, which is the
cornerstone of an extensive network of programs serving millions
of elderly Americans.
Throughout this year, the Subcommittee on
Human Services will hold a series of hearings on the older
During the course of those hearings, we will
explore ways in which the network of service providers can be
more effectively integrated into efforts to improve health care.
In responding to the present crisis, we recognize that our
patchwork approach to health care deprives millions of children
of a bright and productive future and millions of elderly of a
peaceful and secure retirement.
It is unfathomable that a society as rich as
to provide some form of health insurance for 37 million
We all know that it is not for lack of resources.
In 1950, we spent $1 billion per month on health care.
we spent $1.5 billion per day.
What we do lack is a full scale Federal commitment to the
uninsured and to the most vulnerable among us.
The metaphor of
the safety net has become as worn and tattered as the net itself.
And for millions and millions of Americans there simply is no
and there never has been when it comes to health
Millions of Americans who go to work every day, whose hard
work contributes immeasurably to making this country the great
power that it is, simply cannot afford to get sick.
For them, a
The Federal government ought to be in the forefront of
efforts to provide better health care to all Americans.
has not been is one of the most inexplicable tragedies of post
In his State of the Union address, President Bush
announced that he asked Secretary Sullivan to undertake a study
of health care policy.
I am sure that Secretary Sullivan will
approach this task with the diligence that he has brought to his
I simply urge him to cast his net wide and to bring his
customary honesty and openness to the study, to think no small
thoughts and make no small plans.
Millions of Americans of all
ages deserve no less.
Many of my constituents in the 21st District in Illinois have
contacted me to describe their dissatisfaction with the current
status of our nation's heath care system.
What I find equally
disturbing is the fact that President Bush, in his FY 1991 budget
proposed $5.5 billion cuts to the Medicare program at a time when
over 31 million Americans are uninsured and 200 million Americans
do not have long-term health care protection.
Today's hearing will focus on the growing number of people in
our society like the frail elderly, the homeless, ethnic minorities, poor pregnant women and children, who continue to fall through the cracks of the Medicare and Medicaid programs
and receive inadequate health care services.
The Honorable Louis W. Sullivan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be our expert witness today.
Dr. Sullivan will address the health and long-term care problem
in America as it pertains to the frail elderly, and I look
forward to his comments regarding the report by the "Pepper
Commission" which specifically addresses this issue.