Issue Position: Creating A Healthcare System That Works
The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, yet more than 46 million Americans have no health insurance. Too many hard-working Americans cannot afford their medical bills, and health-related issues are the number one cause for personal bankruptcy. Promoting affordable, accessible, and high-quality health care is a priority for Senator Obama, who is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Fighting AIDS Worldwide
There are 40 million people across the planet infected with HIV/AIDS. Every day, AIDS kills 8,000 and HIV infects 6,000 more people. The disease is set to become the third-leading cause of death worldwide in the coming years. Senator Obama has been a global leader in the fight against AIDS. He traveled to Kenya and took a public HIV test to encourage testing and reduce the stigma of the disease. The Senator joined Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) at a large California evangelical church to promote greater investment in the global AIDS battle. At this conservative Christian event, Obama pushed a balanced approach to fighting the disease that includes condom distribution. Senator Obama also worked with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and others to introduce the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.
Bravery and Bipartisanship on the AIDS Battle
"U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois told more than 2,000 evangelical leaders in Orange County on Friday that he 'respectfully but unequivocally' disagrees with those who oppose condom distribution to fight the AIDS pandemic. . . . Obama drew a standing ovation from the 2,072 pastors and others who came from 39 states and 18 nations."
-Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2006
Encouraging Medical Information Technology
Every transaction consumers make at banks across the country costs them less than a penny. Yet, because we have not updated technology in the health care industry, a single transaction at a hospital still costs up to $25--not one dime of which goes toward improving care. The lack of modern, interoperable information technology at our hospitals costs in time, money, and medical errors. Senator Obama worked with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) to introduce the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Efficiency Act to leverage the federal government's purchasing power to encourage the development of health information technology. The bill would require medical insurance companies that deal with the federal government to implement an electronic system for efficient and effective settlement of medical claims.
Fostering Healthy Communities
How a community is designed -- including the layout of its roads, buildings and parks -- can have a huge impact on the health of its residents. For instance, nearly one-third of Americans live in neighborhoods without sidewalks and less than half of our country's children have a playground within walking distance of their homes. This lack of a safe place to walk and play is a major contributor to the growing numbers of overweight children. Senator Obama introduced the Healthy Places Act to help state and local governments assess the health impact of new policies or projects, whether it is a new highway or shopping center. Once the health impact is determined, the bill gives grant funding and technical assistance to help address potential health problems.
"We . . . write to thank you for the introduction of S.2506/H.R.5088 The Healthy Places Act of 2006. The relationship between the built environment and the health and safety of all Americans is a vitally important aspect of public health. We are hopeful that with your leadership, Congress will soon address this critical health issue."
-Letter from Coalition of Health Groups.
Empowering Health Care Consumers with Hospital Report Cards
Consumers do not have enough information to make good choices about their health care. Senator Obama introduced the Hospital Quality Report Card Act to require hospitals to report on the effectiveness, safety and timeliness of the care they provide. This legislation, which is similar to a bill that Barack Obama passed in the Illinois State Senate, would help patients make healthcare decisions and help providers and insurers get the right information to improve quality and contain costs.
Harnessing the Power of Genetic Medicine
Genomics has the potential to revolutionize the practice of medicine, but despite significant scientific advances, very few genomics-based tests or treatments have reached consumers. Genomics could eventually help predict which Americans will get sick, diagnose illness earlier, and screen patients to determine which drugs will be effective and safe. Senator Obama introduced the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act to overcome the scientific barriers, adverse market pressures, and outdated federal regulations that have stood in the way of better medicine.
"The Obama bill accelerates advances in the beneficial applications of genetic technologies to human health, while ensuring appropriate safeguards for the quality of genetic testing. After decades of policy lagging behind genetic science, we are hopeful that discussion of this bill will jumpstart the setting of sound genetic public policy."
- Kathy Hudson, Director, Genetics and Public Policy Center
Protecting Our Children from Lead Poisoning
More than 430,000 children in America have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and, at very high levels, seizures, coma and death. An estimated 14,200 (14 percent) of licensed child care centers nationwide are contaminated with hazardous levels of lead-based paint. Many toys on store shelves have unsafe levels of lead. A study commissioned by Senator Obama even found deadly levels of lead in some products sold at congressional gift shops.
Senator Obama introduced the Lead Poisoning Reduction Act to help protect children from lead poisoning by requiring that child care facilities, including Head Start programs and kindergartens, be lead-safe within five years. Senator Obama also introduced the Lead Free Toys Act to set strict regulations on lead in toys. Any product marketed or used by children under age six that contains more than trace amounts of lead would be banned under the Hazardous Substance Act. Senator Obama has also pressured the EPA to publish long-delayed regulations for mitigating lead hazards during home renovations.
"Instead of recall after recall, why not prevent these dangerous exposures in the first place? That's what U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois wants to do. He has introduced legislation that would ban lead in all children's products. Adopting the ban - and imposing harsh penalties for violators - would be the best way to protect kids."
-Des Moines Register, Editorial, August 19, 2006
"Senator Obama's action puts EPA on notice that it may no longer delay addressing a tragic but completely avoidable public health threat."
--Jeff Ruch, Executive Director, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility