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Public Statements

Affordable Health Care For America Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. speaker the Affordable Health Care for America Act will strengthen America and offer greater security to our workers, families, seniors and businesses. It will enhance our nation's health care system, placing American healthcare consumers where they belong: at the heart of it. H.R. 3962 will improve quality, choice and competition, while cutting down fraud, waste and abuse, and lowering costs over the long term. It will strengthen Medicare, eliminate the Part D ``donut hole,'' improve access for lower income citizens so that Medicare is affordable for ALL seniors, and create new consumer protections for Medicare Advantage Plans. Discrimination for pre-existing conditions, dropped coverage, and yearly or lifetime caps will no longer be tolerated. Co-pays and other cost-sharing for preventative services will be eliminated and annual caps on what an individual or a family pays out-of-pocket will be established.

Since 1987, the cost of the average family health insurance policy has risen from 7 percent of median family income to 17 percent. Family premiums are projected to increase an average of $1,800 each year and in 2007, 60 percent of bankruptcies were reported to be related to medical costs. With this bill, no American family will go bankrupt because they get sick.

Sixty percent of our nation's entire uninsured population are small business owners and their employees and families. This equals at least 28 to million uninsured Americans. Small business premiums have risen 129 percent since 2000. In 2008, 38 percent of small companies offered health coverage, compared with 41 percent in 2007 and 61 percent in 1993.

For too long, the health of our nation has dwindled while the pockets of the insurance giants have thickened. Our seniors have compromised prescription drugs for necessary groceries, while the pharmaceutical industry has made record profits. Hard working families have watched their savings plummet and their homes foreclosed after unexpected illnesses. Woman with breast cancer, men with heart disease and children with leukemia or childhood diabetes have been flat-out denied health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions or reaching insurance policy caps.

Under the House Plan, the Ninth Congressional District of Ohio will benefit immensely and in very specific ways:

386,000 residents in the region I represent will see improved employer-based coverage.

167,000 households would be eligible for credits to help pay for coverage.

38,000 uninsured citizens just in our region would be eligible for insurance under a reformed system.

14,500 small businesses will be allowed to obtain affordable health care coverage and 12,400 among them will receive tax credits to help reduce the costs of health insurance.

102,000 beneficiaries will benefit from an improved Medicare program.

7,600 seniors will benefit from closing the prescription drug donut hole, starting with $500 of cost forgiveness is 2010.

1,700 families will be protected from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.

$120 million in savings will be seen by hospitals and health care providers as a result of reductions in uncompensated care.

The uninsured will receive immediate relieve through a temporary insurance program. Individuals receiving COBRA will be allowed to keep their coverage until a more customer friendly, one-stop marketplace for health insurance, known as the Exchange, is created. The Exchange will offer affordability credits and tax credits for individuals and businesses that need them. Health plans will be required to allow young people until their 27th birthday to remain on their parents' health insurance policy. Moreover, insurance companies will be subject to public review and disclosure of insurance excessive rate increases.

Much needed investments will be made right away in training programs designed to increase the number of primary care doctors, nurses, and public health professionals. Not-for-Profit purchasing collaboratives, such as the FrontPath Health Coalition from Northwest Ohio, will be strengthened to achieve careful plan management and cost-savings, and encouraged as a central provision of Title I. Community Health Centers will see an increase in funding to allow for a doubling of patients over the next 5 years. A $10 billion fund will be created to finance a temporary reinsurance program to help offset the costs of expensive health claims for employers that provide health benefits for retirees age 55-64.

The well being of individuals and our nation will benefit from these reforms. From an economic standpoint, healthcare costs have stifled the vitality of American businesses and their ability to compete in the global marketplace. The 129 percent increase since 2000 in small business premiums alone have smothered their potential and destroyed their ability to cover employees, resulting in an astounding 60 percent of our nation's entire uninsured population.

Affordable health insurance reform is necessary to cut the costs of doing business, reduce the share of government expenditures spent on health care, help our companies to be more competitive in the world market, unleash the entrepreneurial talents of the American people, and give peace of mind to the middle class and our seniors and others that everything they have worked for will not be taken away if they get sick.

As someone who grew up in a small business family, I watched our father forced to sell our small family grocery when he became ill. He needed health insurance for our family and took a job at a local auto assembly plant to obtain it for his wife and children. I promised myself when I was elected to Congress that passing legislation to cover small business would be one of my top priorities. Finally, it has become possible to vote on a bill that will do this for millions of our fellow citizens.

With the mounting economic strain on American families and the rising costs of health insurance to workers, businesses and federal budget, the status quo has proven itself unsustainable, fiscally irresponsible and morally unacceptable. The time has come for this historical change. I stand in support of its promise to the American people.

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Ms. KAPTUR. I thank the gentleman.

With respect for all of my colleagues, I rise in support of the Stupak amendment, which maintains existing Federal law, the Hyde amendment, on the compelling issue of abortion.

For 34 years, citizens of conscience have weighed in on this important moral and legal issue. Let me repeat: This amendment reaffirms longstanding, existing law and nothing more. It represents the broad consensus of the American people after 34 years of consideration on this issue. This is what it says:

``No Federal funds 'authorized under this act may be used to pay for any abortion or cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion,' except in the cases of the life of the mother, rape or incest.''

The amendment does no more, no less. It is similar to language that applies in Federal law on Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans Affairs, the CHIP program, and the Federal Health Employees Program, which is a model for how this language should be applied. It has been tried, tested and proven. The inclusion of this amendment clarifies the bill's language on the potential fungibility of premium dollars.

I urge my colleagues to support the amendment and the bill.

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