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STATEMENT OF HONORABLE THOMAS J. DOWNEY

MARCH 5, 1990
SELECT COMMITTEE ON AGING

"IN POOR HEALTH
THE FEDERAL COMMITMENT TO VULNERABLE AMERICANS"

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

Elderly:

An Oversight Hearing", in Clearwater, Florida for this

morning and was unable to reschedule the hearing at this late

date.

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

Americans Act.

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

ours

can fail

to provide some form of health insurance for 37 million

Americans.

We all know that it is not for lack of resources.

In 1950, we spent $1 billion per month on health care.

In 1988,

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

safety net

and there never has been when it comes to health

care.

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

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way.

The Federal government ought to be in the forefront of

efforts to provide better health care to all Americans.

That it

has not been is one of the most inexplicable tragedies of post

war America.

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

office.

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.

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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.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your continued leadership in health care, and for conducting

today's important and timely hearing.

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