NJ Senator says moving the process forward is important, but also important to continue pursuing improvements on affordability, inclusion of public option. Menendez successfully includes slew of amendments to help expand access, lower costs, protect consumers.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today will vote in favor of the Finance Committee's health insurance reform bill. Menendez says that he still has concerns about the Finance bill on the affordability of insurance for those in the new insurance exchange and on the lack of a public insurance plan option, and he believes those need to be addressed when the bill is before the full Senate. However, he also said that enough improvements were made during the committee markup to warrant moving the process forward in order to ultimately craft and enact effective landmark health insurance reform.
During the committee markup, Menendez was able to successfully include a number of his amendments to the legislation, including stronger consumer protections, guaranteeing coverage for behavioral health treatments and a tax credit for start-up biotechnology firms on the cusp of medical innovation. He will work to protect those provisions throughout the remainder of the legislative process.
"Getting this legislation through the rigors of the Finance Committee is a watershed moment in the effort to reform the health insurance system, which has long been too expensive and too inaccessible for too many families," said Menendez. "This committee is a high hurdle to clear, but it is also vital to clear this hurdle so that, in the end, we can deliver the type of real reform that is badly needed.
"My vote comes with the understanding that I fully expect improvements to be made to the bill as currently constituted before it becomes a final product in the full Senate. Certainly, some upgrades were made in the Finance Committee, which is a testament to Chairman Baucus, but they are not yet enough. There are remaining questions as to whether health coverage in the new insurance exchange will be affordable for all and there is a gaping hole that should be filled by a public option, among other issues. Through the remainder of the legislative process, we have to continue to improve the bill so that quality health insurance is affordable and accessible for everyone.
"I am proud to have included a number of my amendments in the legislation, which will help lower health insurance costs, protect consumers and expand access to health coverage. My amendment to guarantee the coverage of behavioral health treatments will help bring economic security and peace of mind to many families dealing with autism or other behavioral health conditions. My amendment to provide a tax credit to small biotechnology firms can help spark medical innovation that improves the health of our families, lowers the costs of health care and creates jobs. And my amendments to protect consumers will help make things even between families and their insurance companies."
"At this stage, to vote against the bill before us is to do nothing. It would be a vote to stay the course and let insurance companies continue to treat the health of the American people as an investment, minimizing risk and maximizing profitability. To vote yes is to do what's right. That being said, more work will need to be done to pass what I consider to be comprehensive health care reform that is consumer-friendly, affordable, and provides a real choice for every American."
Video of Menendez's closing remarks in Finance Committee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSUqwTCd-mc.
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