Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Minnesota. I want to add my comments to that of the Senator from Maryland and the Senator from Delaware to commend the new Senator from Massachusetts. He not only carries on the great work of Ted Kennedy, but he does it with the same passion and eloquence.
What struck me in this legislation--and reminiscent of Senator Kennedy--is that this legislation will provide real help to real people. It is about solutions, not slogans.
Let me illuminate, if I may. Premium relief. What is troubling so many middle-class families? They are too wealthy to qualify for direct public assistance in terms of the Medicaid Program, but they are not wealthy enough to pay for insurance.
This legislation will cap family outlays on medical insurance premiums. Families making under $88,000 will pay no more than 10 percent of their income on premiums. They will be given direct assistance through the tax system. There will be a rebate. So people now, rather than staring at 20 percent, 15 percent, 18 percent increases, will at least know there is a cap. And perhaps if we do our work well enough, the whole system will begin to reduce below the 10-percent mark, and everyone will benefit.
It is also notable that real families worry about many things. They worry about educating their children. They want them to be educated, but they also recognize as full-time students in higher education, they can stay on the family health care plan. It is interesting to note that decisions made about education are tied into health care, and also, in fact, as to where you work, if you should keep your job you do not like because you have health care or go on,
whether you strike out to start a new business because you have this brilliant idea or stay in your current position because there is health care there. But what this bill does, again, is provide real help for real people and allows families to keep their children on their health care plan until they are 26 years old.
It also reforms dramatically the insurance system. Again, we listen to many of the complaints: Oh, we don't want a government-run health care system; we don't want bureaucrats telling us what to do. The irony, of course, as you mentioned, and Senator Schumer did, too, is that one of the most popular health care programs in this country is Medicare, which is government run. One of the other most popular health care programs in this country is run through the Veterans' Administration, which is a government agency. The least popular programs are private health insurance, where everyone has complaints--doctors, patients, providers. This legislation will prevent lifetime limits that insurance companies dictate. It will also do many other things.
So let me conclude because I appreciate very much--and if the time allows, I have a question for the Senator from Massachusetts. But this is a bill that when you move past all of the rhetorical smokescreens--because, frankly, most of our colleagues on the other side don't want to do anything. They didn't want to do it in 1993 and 1994; they didn't want to do it in 1933 and 1935; and they still don't want to do it--this legislation helps real people with solutions not slogans about nationalization and bureaucrats.