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Public Statements

Children's Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


CHILDREN'S HEALTH AND MEDICARE PROTECTION ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (House of Representatives - August 01, 2007)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mrs. BONO. Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my strong support for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, and the need for this program to be reauthorized. But, unfortunately, I must also state my opposition to the proposals that we have before us on the floor today.

Since its enactment in 1997, SCHIP has been a tremendous success. SCHIP has been adopted in one form or another in every state across the nation. In my own state of California, we have enacted a combination of the SCHIP and Medicaid program to optimize coverage in the state. This program is better known as Healthy Families and currently provides coverage to more than 800,000 children. I strongly support the coverage that currently exists in California and voice my continued commitment to maintaining that coverage.

I was heartened to see the bipartisan compromise that emerged from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee earlier this month and that is currently being debated on the Senate floor. This legislation ensures that states will have adequate federal funding to continue their existing programs, while allowing others to expand coverage to more children. The bill also allows states to cover pregnant women and includes provisions to transition childless adults into Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that this bill will lead to the coverage of three and a half million new children. And all this was done at $15 billion less than the SCHIP portion of the proposal that we have before us today. While I recognize that the Senate proposal is still a work in progress, I am supportive of many of the principles laid forth in this legislation and appreciate the flexibility with which states are allowed to continue operating this program.

This CHAMP Act that is before us includes many provisions that are positive and attempt to address some very real and very serious problems facing the health care community. I know that my own state would benefit greatly from the Adult Day Health Care Services provision within the bill and would allow California and 7 other states to continue operating their long standing and successful programs. There are provisions that will amend Medicare Part D to aid patients relying on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program or ADAP to pay for their drugs. Perhaps most importantly, this legislation also includes a two year update for payments to physicians under the Medicare fee schedule. If current law is allowed to move forward doctors will be forced to absorb a nearly 10% cut in reimbursements. As the daughter of a doctor, I am sympathetic to this cause and have been supportive of efforts to stave off devastating cuts that have been pending in years past. I strongly believe that the problems we face as a result of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) deserve our full and careful attention. I do not, however, believe that this is the vehicle to do so.

While I support many, if not most of the provisions in this bill, I have a responsibility to vote for programs and policies that are necessary for the public and affordable for the taxpayer. This bill is typical of what we have come to expect from a Congress that refuses to put limits on what they are willing to support and ask the taxpayers to fund.

I joined with several of my colleagues in co-sponsoring H.R. 3269, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, which was introduced by Representative Heather Wilson yesterday afternoon. I am proud to have co-sponsored this legislation that will do what needs to be done in an affordable and responsible manner. It would be a tragedy if this bill, that has bipartisan support in the Senate, were to lose and so many important projects pushed off track because this Congress refuses to deal with everyday realities of taxpayers struggling to make ends meet. I am deeply disappointed in the decision made by my colleagues on the Rules Committee to not only allow rejection of this amendment but every other amendment that may have helped to improve and reign in this irresponsible bill.

To help pay for the obscene $90 billion price tag of this legislation, cuts have been proposed to hospital payments, inpatient rehabilitation services, skilled nursing facilities, and home health care services to name a few. I am very alarmed that a lion's share of these cutbacks will be felt by Medicare Advantage and the 8 million Medicare beneficiaries currently enrolled. In Riverside County alone, nearly 50 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have chosen to participate in a Medicare Advantage plan, more than 100,000 seniors. The bill that we have before us today will put each of us in the position of having to choose between children and seniors.

As I have often stated, SCHIP must be reauthorized; 6.6 million children who are currently enrolled will find their coverage jeopardized if Congress does not act. We have long known that September 30th was looming and instead of acting, the leadership of the various Committee's of jurisdiction have chosen to wait until the 11th hour, and not just act on SCHIP, but to create a veritable Christmas tree of major health care policy reforms with no legislative hearings. We can and should act on behalf of SCHIP. I encourage my colleagues in the House to follow the example of the Senate and consider a bill that is clean and focused and allows members to vote their conscience on coverage for children.

I will not be voting for the CHAMP Act today for these reasons. I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will come together during Conference, put aside partisanship, put aside a grab bag of legislation and bring back a bill that is truly for our children.


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