Sunday, November 08, 2009

An Assortment of PA Rep's Statements on Health Care Bill

The inbox overflowed with statements on the House health care bill that passed late Saturday night. Here they are, for your perusal.

Allyson Schwartz (D-13):

In an historic vote to improve health care in America, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives tonight to pass H.R. 3962, The Affordable Health Care for America Act.

“Health care reform is both a moral and economic imperative,” U.S. Rep. Schwartz said. “Americans have been waiting decades for access to affordable, meaningful health care, and tonight’s historic vote moved us closer than ever before to this goal. This legislation builds on what works, and improves what doesn’t in our health care system. It ensures that we will provide nearly every American with access to affordable, quality health care coverage. It improves delivery of care and will lead to better health outcomes for all Americans. And, this bill contains the rapidly rising costs of health care - critical to America’s economic strength in a global economy.”

As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, one of three committees of jurisdiction over health care policy, Schwartz played a significant role in drafting this important piece of legislation. Schwartz was outspoken in working to ensure that the legislation made best use of America’s tremendous assets of innovation, competition and public -private choices.

Schwartz took a lead role in ensuring key provisions, based on earlier pieces of legislation she wrote, were in the final bill.

· Ensuring that insurance companies would no longer be permitted to exclude coverage of pre-existing conditions;
· Increasing transparency in insurance paperwork and requiring that coverage be explained in plain language;
· Allowing young people, up to the age of 27, to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans;
· Increasing the number of primary care doctors, nurses, and physician assistants through new scholarship and loan repayment programs and a new focus on preventive care in medical education;
· Incentivizing care coordination for patients with chronic conditions to improve health outcomes and reduce preventable hospital admissions;
· Eliminating co-payments for prevention and primary care for Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance beneficiaries; and
· Providing new access to life-saving vaccines for seniors who rely on Medicare.

Schwartz also fought to ensure that as we encourage greater efficiencies and quality in America’s hospitals, we make certain that policies affecting hospitals take into account the unique teaching, research and innovation missions of Philadelphia’s hospitals. She also worked to advance provisions to assist small businesses with tax credits. In her role as vice chair of the House Budget Committee, Schwartz worked to ensure that the House bill was fully paid for, now and into the future.

“We know that the status quo is unaffordable and unsustainable. Passing health care reform benefits all of us: families, seniors, businesses, and our nation,” said Schwartz.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act

If you have insurance, this bill:

* Keeps your insurance company from denying you care or coverage – or charging you more – because of diabetes, heart disease or any other “pre-existing condition.”
* Gives you peace of mind that you won’t lose coverage if you lose your job, move, or change jobs.
* Prevents insurance companies from dropping you because you get “too sick.”
* Covers preventive care with no co-pays or deductibles.
* Limits out-of-pocket expenses your insurance company can make you pay.

If you don’t have insurance, this bill:

* Lets you comparison shop for a quality, affordable health plan through a new health insurance exchange or marketplace.
* Offers you low group rates even for individual coverage.
* Helps lower your premiums with affordability credits for those who need help paying.
* Prevents any insurance company from denying you coverage for heart disease, diabetes or another “pre-existing condition.”
* Extends coverage for young Americans, allowing them to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans up to their 27th birthday if they choose.
* Includes a public health insurance option to compete on a level playing field with private insurers.

For our seniors, this bill:

* Strengthens Medicare, extending its solvency for years to come.
* Improves access to your doctor.
* Lowers Medicare drug prices by beginning to close the coverage gap or “donut hole” immediately.
* Reduces inefficiencies and program costs to help Medicare remain solvent without cutting benefits.
* Improves coordination and increases the quality of care for seniors with diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic conditions.

Paul Kanjorski (D-11)
Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) provided the following statement explaining his vote for H.R. 3962, The Affordable Health Care for America Act. The House passed the bill today by a vote of 220-215. Once the Senate has completed action on its own bill, it is expected that a conference committee of representatives from each body will negotiate compromise legislation which will need to be adopted by the House and the Senate before reaching the President’s desk for signature.

“The House has taken an important first step today to improve the affordability and accessibility of health care. While today’s health care legislation is not perfect, action to address this important issue is absolutely necessary. If we do nothing to reform health care, health care costs are expected to double over the next ten years, just as they have over the last ten years.

“Insured Americans pay on average $500 per year just to administer health insurance, more than double the administrative costs paid in any other country which has a government-run health care system. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that $91 billion a year is wasted on excessive insurance administrative costs.

“Because about 60% of all Americans under the age of 65 receive insurance through their employers, much of this waste is burdening American companies. American companies competing in the global economy cannot afford this economic disadvantage. The bill we voted on today attempts to reduce the costs of insurance to employers and employees by providing greater competition among insurers. According to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a family of four would save $1,260 in annual health insurance premiums once this bill is enacted.

“It is estimated that 96% of all Americans will have access to affordable health insurance under this bill. While I believe that caring for our fellow citizens is a moral imperative, it also makes economic sense to have as many people covered by insurance as possible. Families USA estimates that every insured American family pays over $1000 per year in premiums just to cover the medical expenses of the uninsured, who obtain urgently needed health care through inefficient means such as visits to hospital emergency rooms. As we face the threat of pandemics such as the current swine flu, it is in the best interest of all of our health to make sure that sick people are treated quickly and affordably so that infectious diseases are not spread.

“While there are many detailed provisions in this complex legislation, it is important to note what the bill does not do. The only effect it will have on senior citizens who rely on Medicare is it will reduce their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, as noted by AARP in its recent endorsement of the bill. The bill does not use tax dollars to pay for abortions. It does not require our smallest businesses to pay for insurance coverage for their employees. It will not result in the federal government controlling the delivery of health care; in fact, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that only six million Americans will choose to enroll in the government-sponsored insurance plan, the so-called “public option.” It does not add to the federal deficit. CBO estimates that the bill will reduce the deficit by $109 billion over the first ten years.

“Finally, I want to praise the House leadership for including in this bill a provision which will help to fund the education of the next generation of doctors, some of whom I hope will be educated by our region’s own medical college.

“We all share the goal of keeping American citizens healthy in the most humane and efficient means possible. I believe this bill is a reasonable first step toward reaching this goal.”

Joe Sestak (D-07)
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, Congressman Joe Sestak, who has been fighting for health care reform since he entered Congress as a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) sub-committee, issued the following statement in honor of tonight's passage of the historic Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962):

"Today, I proudly voted to pass the Affordable Health Care for America Act (AHCAA). This legislation will ensure access to affordable, quality health care for all Americans -- while making health insurance more affordable for individuals and small businesses that currently have it -- by establishing a fair, competitive marketplace for health insurance. It no longer allows insurance companies to make life and death decisions in who gets what health coverage. It provides these benefits while reducing the federal deficit by $109 billion over the next ten years and extending the solvency of the Medicare program.

"As a 31 year Navy Veteran, I went to Congress to ensure that everyone has the same quality health care treatment as my daughter had just a few years ago under the government's TRICARE program when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 4. This is why I requested to sit on two health sub-committees, why I worked to pass health insurance reform out of the Education and Labor Committee, why I have held numerous town halls and summits over the past three years to listen and to explain the benefits of this effort, including the public option, and why I am honored to have had the opportunity to vote for the Affordable Health Care for America Act. Today, we are a significant step closer to achieving this critical goal."

"More than 40 million American citizens currently lack insurance, and 14,000 more individuals are added to that tally every day. Every year, the uninsured and the underinsured cost our economy as much as $160 billion in lost productivity and without action, health care costs will consume fully 1/3 of our economic output by 2040. This is one of the rare instances where the morally right course of action is also an economic necessity."

Patrick Murphy (D-08)
Today, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D, 8th-District) announced his support of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. After careful consideration of the bill and having met with and listened to thousands of constituents, doctors, patients, and health care providers, Congressman Murphy decided to vote in favor of the bill in order to improve access to coverage for middle-class families, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and get the United States’ spiraling health care spending under control and on a deficit-reducing path. H.R. 3962, which has been endorsed by the AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well nearly 300 other organizations, will make critical and long-overdue improvements to the nation’s health insurance system.

Congressman Murphy has been guided by 8th District constituents’ experiences within the health insurance system- small business owners struggling to do right by their employees in the face of skyrocketing health care costs; Bucks County residents denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions such as pregnancy, asthma, high blood pressure, and cancer; seniors failing to make ends meet and lacking access to vital prescription drugs as they fall into the Medicare Part D “donut hole” every year.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act addresses these issues by extending tax credits to middle class families and small businesses to make health insurance coverage more affordable and accessible, ending denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions and ensuring that consumers who already have coverage cannot be kicked off their plan for becoming “too expensive,” and closing the “donut hole”. Reform would end insurance companies’ abusive practices, putting Americans- not insurance company CEOs- back in the driver’s seat. As the American Medical Association (AMA) said in their endorsement, reform “empowers patient and physician decision making”.

In addition to closing the Medicare Part D “donut hole,” H.R. 3962 will strengthen and improve benefits for seniors. Seniors will have access to lower-cost prescription drugs, as the government will now be allowed to negotiate directly with manufacturers to get better deals on medications. Additionally, Medicare beneficiaries will have access to free preventive care services to help them stay healthy and active. The AARP cited these provisions as some of the key factors in their endorsement of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, stating “with confidence that [H.R. 3962] meets those goals with improved benefits for people in Medicare and needed health insurance market reforms to help ensure every American can purchase affordable health coverage.”

Importantly, the House health insurance reform bill also cracks down on Medicare fraud that drains nearly $60 billion in taxpayer money from the system each year. It includes a bipartisan bill Congressman Murphy introduced with the former head of the RNC, then-Senator Mel Martinez . The IMPROVE Act will close a major loophole that allows for billions of dollars in Medicare fraud each year. This legislation finally gives law enforcement the tools they need to track down scammers and protect taxpayer dollars.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act is deficit-reducing, a condition that Congressman Murphy, as a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, stressed was critical to his support for any health insurance reform measures. In fact, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 3962 reduces the deficit by $129 billion. Pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and other industry groups, who will see millions of new customers under this legislation, are contributing hundreds of billions of dollars to pay for insurance reform.

“The Affordable Health Care for America Act will improve the quality of care for hundreds of thousands of Bucks County residents, and will ensure that families, seniors, and small business owners no longer struggle with skyrocketing health care costs, or live with the fear that a loved one may be kicked of their insurance at any time,” said Congressman Murphy. “We know that the status quo is simply unsustainable, and I’m proud to stand for long-overdue, deficit-reducing insurance reform that protects middle-class families, improves access, increases choice and competition, and does right by all Americans.”

H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, has been endorsed by the AARP, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well 300 other organizations.

Bonus: Comments from Pres. Obama
Good afternoon, everybody. I just want to say a few words about two milestones that have passed in the last few hours that represent encouraging progress for our country.

The first was the historic vote the House took last night on health insurance reform. For years we've been told that this couldn't be done. After all, neither chamber of Congress has been able to pass a comprehensive health insurance reform bill for generations. But last night the House proved differently.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act is a piece of legislation that will provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don't; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare. It is legislation that is fully paid for and it will reduce our long-term federal deficit.

Given the heated and often misleading rhetoric surrounding this legislation I know that this was a courageous vote for many members of Congress, and I'm grateful to them and for the rest of their colleagues for taking us this far. But more importantly, so are the millions of Americans whose lives will change when we achieve insurance reform -- families with preexisting conditions who will finally have insurance coverage; parents who will be protected from annual and lifetime limits that can force them to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for a child's illness; small businesses that will finally be able to cover their employees; and working folks who will finally be able to afford health insurance for the very first time.

Americans like Katie Gibson, a cancer survivor from Bozeman, Montana, who shared her story with me this summer. Because of a medical condition Katie's insurance policy was suddenly revoked when she needed it most, even though she was paying her premiums. I called Katie this morning and I told her that when the bill that passed last night becomes law we'll be able to protect Americans just like her from the kinds of insurance company abuses she had to endure. And I told her that it was because of her willingness to share her story and the extraordinary activism that she and people like her all across the country displayed -- not just this year, but over the last several years -- that we are finally this close to getting reform done.

Their lives are what's at stake in this debate, and moments like this are why they sent us here -- to finally meet the challenges that Washington has put off for decades; to make their lives better and this nation stronger; to move America forward. That's what the House did last night when it brought us closer than we have ever been to comprehensive health insurance reform in America.

Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people. And I'm absolutely confident that they will. I'm equally convinced that on the day that we gather here at the White House and I sign comprehensive health insurance reform legislation into law, they'll be able to join their House colleagues and say that this was their finest moment in public service -- the moment we delivered change we promised to the American people and did something to leave this country stronger than we found it.

The second development I want to mention is a significant breakthrough in Iraq, where Iraq's parliament has approved a new election law that paves the way for national elections early next year. This is an important milestone as the Iraqi people continue to take responsibility for their future.

I want to congratulate Iraq's leaders for reaching this agreement. Their flexibility and commitment to their country sends an important signal to the world about Iraq's democracy and national unity. And I look forward to prompt approval of this law by Iraq's Presidency Council.

Iraq has known many challenges, and in the past several weeks we've seen that there are still those who would kill innocent men, women and children to deny the Iraqi people the future they deserve. Today's step forward is another reminder that these enemies of the Iraqi people will fail.

The United States will continue to stand with Iraq as a strong partner and as a friend. Tough challenges remain and I'm sure that there will be difficult days to come. But this agreement advances the political progress that can bring lasting peace and unity to Iraq, and allow for the orderly and responsible transition of American combat troops out of Iraq by next September.

So I want to congratulate our troops and civilians who are serving so capably in Iraq, and I want to congratulate the Iraqi people who have taken an important step forward in pursuit of a better future.

There's much more work to be done, but with today's news we're continuing to move in the right direction as we continue to look forward to Iraqi elections early next year.

Thank you very much.

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