Bipartisan Senate Coalition Introduces First Comprehensive Health Reform Bill of 2009
U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa) joined with Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and a bipartisan coalition of Senators today in offering the Healthy Americans Act (S.391), legislation that seeks to guarantee that every American has quality, affordable health care. The Healthy Americans Act introduced today improves on the version first offered in the 110th Congress with the inclusion of several innovative additions developed and agreed upon by the bill's sponsors. The list of co-sponsors includes returning sponsors: U.S Senators Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), as well as new co-sponsors: U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.),
"We have long struggled to adequately cover all Americans with health insurance, and I believe the Healthy Americans Act provides a strong basis for moving forward on this important subject," Specter said. "I am pleased to cosponsor this legislation which enacts reforms that enhance our current market-based health care system."
"After decades of debate, our effort is proof that Democrats and Republicans are not only capable of putting partisanship aside, they are ready to work together to finally create a health care system that works for all Americans," said Wyden. "We look forward to working closely with Chairmen Baucus and Kennedy as well as Republican ranking members Grassley and Enzi to bring the Senate together to finally enact meaningful health reform."
"Change is the buzz word in Washington today, and the cosponsors of the Healthy Americans Act are working to ensure that we will see positive change for every American when it comes to our health care system," said Bennett. "Reforming health care has long been viewed as too partisan to touch, but Congress can no longer ignore the bloated spending on a broken health care system, especially at a time when our national deficit has climbed to $1.2 trillion and health care costs are growing at an unsustainable rate."
In addition to guaranteeing that every American can afford quality, private health insurance, the Healthy Americans Act would: give Americans choice in where they get their health care; modernize the employer-employee relationship by making health care portable from job to job (and continue if you lose your job); promote personal responsibility and preventive medicine, and reform the insurance market so that insurers are forced to compete on price, benefits and quality. The legislation mirrors many of the ideas put forward by President Obama in that it guarantees coverage for all Americans, allows those who are happy with their current health care coverage to keep it and does not burden middle-income Americans with new taxes on their health benefits.
The Healthy Americans Act pays for itself by eliminating administrative costs and changing the outdated tax code which currently gives businesses write offs for even the most lavish designer health plans. The Healthy Americans Act would implement a standard health tax deduction that averages $17,000 for a family of four and provides subsidies so that all Americans can afford quality health coverage. Last year, after analyzing the Healthy Americans Act, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation released a report that found that HAA would be roughly budget neutral in 2014 and would - in subsequent years - generate surpluses. An independent analysis of the Healthy Americans Act was also conducted by the non-partisan Lewin Group, which estimates that -- even with covering all Americans - the Healthy Americans Act could save nearly $1.5 trillion in health care spending over the next 10 years.
In the Senate, the Healthy Americans Act is awaiting action by the Finance Committee. Senators Crapo, Stabenow, Cantwell, Nelson and Wyden are members of the Committee.