STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - November 10, 2009)
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By Mr. KERRY:
S. 2765. A bill to amend the Small Business Act to authorize loan guarantees for health information technology; to the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, as we move forward in modernizing our health care system, we must not forget the small businesses that simply cannot afford the upfront costs of installing new health information technology. That is why today I am introducing the Small Business Health Information Technology Financing Act. This bill will amend the Small Busis Act to allow the administrator of the Small Business Administration to guarantee up to 90 percent of the amount of a loan to small business health professionals to be used for the purchase and installation of health information technology. The loans can be used for computer hardware, software and other technology that will assist in the use of electronic health records and prescriptions.
A modernized health system using electronic prescribing and electronic health records will help improve patient care while reducing costs. Electronic prescribing not only saves money through improved efficiency, but more importantly, it reduces medical errors and saves lives. According to the Institute of Medicine, 1/3 of written prescriptions require follow-up clarification, with medication mistakes causing 7,000 deaths and 1.5 million injuries per year. The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act that was enacted into law in July 2008 included provisions from my electronic prescribing bill, providing incentive payments for medical professionals using electronic prescribing. Now we must take an additional step to make health IT accessible to small providers so they can afford to implement new technology such as e-prescribing and electronic health records.
Small businesses employ more than half of all private sector employees and have generated 64 percent of net new jobs in the past 15 years. Access to capital for small health providers not only benefits patients but also boosts small businesses in the medical field. Helping small businesses grow and succeed is critical as we look to create jobs and strengthen the economy.
It is my hope that we can move forward with this bill in a bi-partisan manner. I ask all of my colleagues to support this legislation.
By Mr. KERRY (for himself and Mr. Casey):
S. 2766. A bill to provide for the coverage of medically necessary food under Federal health programs and private health insurance; to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, each year an estimated 2,550 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with an inborn error of metabolism disorder. For the rest of their lives they will need modified foods that are void of the nutrients their body is incapable of processing. They may also require supplementation with pharmacological doses of vitamins and amino acids. The good news is that with treatment they can lead normal, productive lives. But without these foods and supplements, patients can become severely brain-damaged and hospitalized.
Newborn screening has made a tremendous difference in the early diagnosis of metabolic disorders, but affordable and accessible treatment options remain out of reach for too many Americans. Medical foods and supplements which are necessary for treatment may not be covered by insurance policies and can be prohibitively expensive for many families. For those with a metabolic disorder, medical foods are critical in treatment, just as other conditions are treated with pills or injections. The sporadic insurance coverage of treatment has already been recognized as a problem. Over 30 States have enacted laws to enforce coverage of medical foods, but too many loopholes Thmain and federal legislation is necessary to ensure that these individuals receive what they need to stay well.
The Medical Foods Equity Act follows the April 2009 recommendations of the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary's Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children. It will ensure coverage of medical foods and necessary supplements for individuals with disorders as recommended by the Advisory Committee and, most importantly, peace of mind for those families affected by inborn errors of metabolism.
The lack of medical food coverage available to families has a significant impact on their lives. With the current situation of varying regulations between States and insurance providers, even families with coverage find themselves living in fear that a change in insurance provider will lead to reduced or nonexistent coverage. Too many Americans across the country are struggling to access the treatment they need for this type of disorder.
Take the story of Donna from Wilmington, MA. Donna has two daughters with phenylketonuria and she speaks eloquently about the frustration she experienced after her employer switched insurance plans. Because medical foods are not listed along with other necessary medicines, Donna was forced to navigate a long list mostly made up of durable medical equipment providers unequipped to help her. Even when she finally found a pharmacy that could order the formula, she was told that they required an upfront payment because they were wary of not being reimbursed by insurance companies. In Donna's own words, she was dismayed at ``having that feeling like you're being held hostage every time a change may occur in your insurance or carrier.''
Donna's story sharply illustrates the potential pitfalls even for those with insurance that offers some coverage. Too many families face a lack of coverage altogether. Take the case of Gwen of Waltham, Massachusetts. Her son Austen was 36 hours old when his heart stopped for over 20 minutes. Thankfully, he was stabilized but one doctor gave him only 6 months to live. A second opinion brought hope for Austen's family and a diagnosis of Glutaric Acidemia Type Two. Glutaric Acidemia Type Two is an inborn error of metabolism managed almost exclusively through diet. Because of the disorder, Austen cannot metabolize much fat or protein. He relies on supplements and specialty foods. MassHealth, Medicaid, covers most of the supplements but not the foods. Gwen pays for his food out of pocket, a significant strain on the family budget at a time when many families can least afford it. That strain is coupled with fears of job security and thoughts of what would happen if she could not pay for Austen's medical foods. No parent should have to see their child recover from a life-threatening trauma only to spend every day worrying about payment for their medical treatment--a treatment just as necessary as insulin for a diabetic or chemotherapy for a cancer patient.
As newborn screening and medical advances continue to improve the ability of those born with an inborn error of metabolism to lead full, healthy lives, we must make sure that the necessary treatments are available. The Medical Foods Equity Act will close existing loopholes in coverage and provide the parity in coverage these families deserve. It is my hope that we can move forward with this bill in a bi-partisan manner. I ask all of my colleagues to support this legislation.