Issue Position: Health Care
Comprehensive health care reform is the great unfinished business of the last half-century in America. We need our health care system to provide meaningful, affordable coverage to every single person in this country, but we also need to deal with escalating costs and the erratic quality of care.
Health reform is not only a matter of fundamental moral values, but an economic imperative as well. 46 million Americans are living without any health insurance coverage at all. Health care costs are rising at twice the rate of workers� wages. Excessive waste and medical errors cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives each year. We live in the richest country on earth, but our health care system has fallen far behind, failing too many Americans.
However, the road to fundamental reform of our broken health care system is clear. First, every American must have quality health coverage by 2011, starting with every child NOW. Second, we must control skyrocketing health costs that push families into bankruptcy and put our businesses at a disadvantage in the global economy. Third, instead of telling tens of millions to wait until they are sick enough to go to an emergency room, we should assure high quality preventive care.
On the first day the Senate was in session for legislative activity, I introduced a bill to guarantee health care insurance coverage for each of the 11 million uninsured children in America today. Kids First builds on successful programs, by creating a federal-state partnership to mandate coverage for all uninsured kids. It's the critical first step to ensure that all kids have the opportunity to grow, learn, and succeed in life.
I also introduced legislation that would help businesses afford to cover their employees, by making a new deal between employers, health insurers, families and the federal government. Today, the high costs of treating the sickest patients are driving up the price tag for everyone�s care and taking a huge toll on businesses. Just one percent of the population pays for nearly a quarter of health care spending. To help businesses get out from under the weight of the most expensive cases, I recently introduced legislation - The Healthy Businesses, Healthy Workers Reinsurance Act � which would reimburse businesses for a percentage of the highest cost cases. It includes cost containment benefits for preventative care, which lowers costs and premiums for employers and employees.
Finally, I will continue to lead the fight for health care relief for our nation�s small businesses. Some small businesses have reported having their premiums increase by more than 70 percent in one year. And less than half of our smallest firms are offering coverage to their workers today. As Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, I intend to pursue legislation that will give more small businesses access to quality, affordable insurance options for their workers and families.