|Mr. President, I rise today with some startling news from my state. It's news that drives home the need to get a handle on America's health care problem.
Being Senator is a tough job. But it isn't the toughest job I've ever had. The toughest job I had was serving on the school board back in Big Sandy, Montana.
I'm a former teacher. So I appreciate the long, hard-and often thankless-hours our teachers put in. And to say they're not the highest-paid profession would be an understatement.
So I was shocked, Mr. President, when I heard about the bad news hitting school employees all across Montana.
This week, my staff and I spoke to folks like the ones at Elysian School District in Billings, Montana. Employees there just received word that their health insurance rates are going up. Way up.
Normally, a big rate hike might be something like 10 or 20 percent. Sometimes we hear about folks getting slammed with 30 or 40 percent increases. But the folks at Elysian? Their rates are skyrocketing by 69 percent.
Think that's bad? Talk to the folks in Hinsdale, or Saco Montana. They just found out their rates are going up, too. By more than 70 percent.
In Montana's Nashua School District - rates are going up 72 percent. And the rate given to those employees who purchase family insurance? It's going up by 83 percent.
Let me repeat that, Mr. President. Health insurance rates. Going up. By 83 percent.
These aren't just numbers, Mr. President. These are people. People whose lives and livelihoods are on the line.
One of those people is Melissa Sanders. Myssie is a 3rd grade math teacher in Lambert, Montana, and she has three children. For her, right now, the bill comes to $895.00 for insurance for her and her family. But under the proposed increase? Myssie would pay almost 16-hundred dollars every month.
Subtract that from Myssie's paycheck, and she'd be left with around $75 dollars every month.
For those in Congress who think nothing is the best option when it comes to health care reform, I have one question: What is Myssie supposed to do? How much more of their paychecks are Montanans supposed to fork over before Congress finally reforms our broken health care system?
The folks I'm talking about don't belong to any big nationwide corporate insurance system. They're not paying for anyone's big million-dollar salaries or lobbyists or advertisements. It's just the cost of health care-going through the roof-that is breaking these Montana families.
And it's not just school employees. Montana's largest insurance company says it's raising rates up to 19 percent this year. Another insurer is reportedly raising rates up to 21 percent. Up. Up. Up. And some people in Congress say Americans don't want or need reform.
Let them talk to the folks I've talked to. Like the teachers seeing these rate increases. Like the Montanans being forced to sell their family farms and ranches because of medical bills. Like the Montana small business owners who can't afford to insure their employees.
On Christmas Eve, I stood in this chamber and cast a vote to keep the government out of our health care decisions, cut the national deficit, hold insurance companies accountable, strengthen Medicare, and slow the rise of health care costs. I'm proud of that vote.
Now, this week, after months of listening, debating and voting, Congress has a chance to work together and get something done.
If Congress does nothing, we know what will happen. Medicare will go bust. Costs will continue breaking Montana families. No one will hold insurance companies accountable.
And year after year, hardworking Montanans will continue seeing more of their hard-earned paychecks eaten up by health care costs.
I'm NOT in the do-nothing camp. Especially when hardworking Montana families are trying to make ends meet with 83 percent rate hikes.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.