Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S. 2558

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

By Mr. HARKIN (for himself and Mr. SPECTER):

S. 2558. A bill to improve the health of Americans and reduce health care costs by reorienting the Nation's health care system towards prevention, wellness, and self care; to the Committee on Finance.

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition to introduce the Health Care Assurance Act of 2004, which is legislation designed to cover the 43 million Americans who are currently not covered, and to provide for offsets in cost to cover the expenditures in covering the 43 million Americans who are now not covered.

The United States has the greatest health care system in the world, and it is desirable, in my opinion, to incrementally change the health care system to cover those who are now not covered as opposed to having some vast bureaucracy take over, with the Government taking all of the responsibility.

I have introduced health care legislation in some detail during the course of my tenure in the Senate and have been privileged to be the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services since 1995, where, working collaboratively with Senator Harkin, the ranking, senior Democrat on the subcommittee, we have increased funding in the National Institutes of Health, done extensive work on stem cell research, and provided a great many health care programs. The legislation which I am introducing today I introduce on behalf of Senator Harkin and myself.

The essence of this legislation would provide for small employer and individual group purchasing so small employers or individuals can have the benefit of what large companies get by virtue of more purchasing power. That expenditure would run, over a 10-year period, at $300 million.

There is considerable loss of coverage when people change jobs. On the so-called portability, this legislation provides in some detail for covering people between jobs, at a cost of about $101 billion over the course of the 10-year period.

Financial incentives for young adults are provided. There is an outreach program for Medicaid-eligible low-income families. There is expanded coverage for the State Children's Health Insurance Program and their families.

The total cost of the programs over a 10-year period would be $540 billion. There are savings specified and identified in the course of this bill to make up for that money, for one thing, improving the program integrity and efficiency in the Medicare Program by having more audits to stop fraud in a very active way by reducing medical errors. The Institute of Medicine published a report identifying up to 98,000 deaths a year due to medical errors. They specified a program for saving up to $150 billion over a 10-year period by reducing medical errors.

The Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, which I chair, had provided funding to move ahead in implementing the reduction in those errors. There would be savings from improving health care quality, efficiency, and consumer education, and there would be considerable savings in primary and preventative care providers.

There needs to be a great deal of additional education. One statistic which I found of concern was that there are 14 million Americans who qualify for Medicaid programs, being below the 200 percent of poverty, who don't seek the coverage and don't know of its availability. In our Health and Human Services bill, we are providing funding to try to move ahead with an educational program.

Last month, a nonpartisan campaign was launched to call attention to the plight of more than 43 million Americans under age 65 who lack health insurance coverage. Two former presidents-Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter-cochaired the effort.
They were supported by nine former Surgeons General and Department of Health and Human Services Secretaries, as well as some of the most influential organizations in this country, including the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Nearly 1,500 public events took place throughout the country, all designed to bring together diverse interests around a single objective: to insist that all Americans have access to health insurance coverage.

Here in the Senate, a special task force appointed by Majority Leader Frist and headed by my distinguished colleague Senator JUDD GREGG issued a series of recommendations for addressing this problem.

Well before last month, we knew that, contrary to what some assume, the ranks of the uninsured consisted primarily of working families with low and moderate incomes-not just the unemployed.

We knew that the lack of insurance ultimately compromises a person's health because he or she is less likely to receive preventive care, is more likely to be hospitalized for avoidable health problems, and is more likely to be diagnosed in the late stages of diseases.

And we knew that the lack of insurance coverage leaves individuals and their families more financially vulnerable to higher out-of-pocket costs for their medical bills.

As I have said many times, we can fix the problems felt by uninsured Americans without resorting to big government and without completely overhauling our current system, one that works well for most Americans-serving over 82 percent of our non-elderly citizens. We must enact reforms that improve upon our current market-based health care system, as it is clearly the best health care system in the world.

When you hear the term "uninsured" you immediately think of men and women who are unemployed and their children.
The unemployed make up approximately 18 percent of Americans who lack health insurance. However, nearly 26 million individuals are employed and still are without health care coverage. Approximately 14 million employed individuals have household incomes below 200 percent of the Federal poverty level and are eligible for public health insurance programs, but have not applied. This statistic includes 4 million children who are eligible for Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance program.

Because of early retirements, nearly 10 percent of people between the ages of 55 and 64, are uninsured.

Approximately 25 to 30 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are uninsured.

Immigrants and their U.S.-born children represent more than 90 percent of the increase in the uninsured population since 1989.

In the United States, in 2003, $1.7 trillion was spent on health care or more than $5,800 per person. It is projected that annual health care expenditures will exceed $3.4 trillion by 2013 or 18 percent of gross domestic product. Costs of covering the uninsured in 2004 dollars is approximately $48 billion or $500 plus billion over 10 years. These costs are in addition to the $125 billion per year currently spent for Medicare and Medicaid payments, out of pocket expenses paid by the uninsured and other state and local programs.

Accordingly, today I am introducing the Health Care Assurance Act of 2004. This legislation would provide health care coverage for all Americans who are currently uninsured. The bill's $540 billion price tag, over the next 10 years, would be offset by improving program integrity and efficiency, a reduction in medical errors, increasing the use of medical technology, and preventive health measures, including improving health care quality and consumer education. Let me briefly summarize the provisions of this legislation.

(1) Small Employer and Individual Purchasing Groups: This legislation establishes voluntary small employer and individual purchasing groups designed to provide affordable, comprehensive health coverage options for employers, their employees, and other uninsured individuals and their families. Health plans offering coverage through such groups will: (1) provide a standard, actuarially equivalent health benefits package; (2) adjust community rated premiums by age and family size in order to spread risk and provide price equity to all; and (3) meet guidelines for marketing practices. This provision would cost $300 million over 10 years and provide coverage to approximately 15.6 million Americans who are currently uninsured.

(2) COBRA Portability Reform: For those persons who are uninsured between jobs and for insured persons who fear losing coverage should they lose their jobs, this legislation would reform the existing COBRA law by: (1) extending to 24 months the minimum time period in which COBRA may cover individuals through their former employers' plan; (2) expanding coverage options to include plans with a lower premium and a $1,000 deductible-saving a typical family of four 20 percent in monthly premiums-and plans with a lower premium and a $3,000 deductible-saving a family of four 52 percent in monthly premiums. This provision would cost $101.7 billion over 10 years and would cover 8.5 million people.

(3) State Based Program of Financial Incentives to Young Adults: This legislation creates a $4 billion a year grant program which consists of financial incentives for full-time independent college students, part-time students, recent graduates and other young adults without health insurance coverage. Coverage would be offered through existing State programs, such as State high risk insurance pools and would be limited so that when individuals are hired, they receive health insurance through their employer. This provision would cost $40 billion over 10 years and would cover 4 million people who are currently uninsured.

(4) Outreach Programs for Low-Income Families Who are Eligible to Enroll in Medicaid: This program is designed to improve coverage through existing public and private health care programs by making low-income parents aware of State child health insurance programs. The legislation would also improve knowledge concerning public health benefits of health insurance coverage, including the advantages of receiving prevention and wellness services. This new outreach program would involve the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, the Social Security Administration and other Federal agencies to improve knowledge about health insurance coverage available through public programs. Outreach will be targeted to eligible populations and be designed in a culturally appropriate manner and identify particularly hard to reach populations, including recent immigrants and migrant and seasonal farm workers. This provision would cost $4 billion over 10 years and would cover up to 3 million previously uninsured individuals.

(5) Expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program and Family Coverage: The legislation would increase the income eligibility to families with incomes at or below 235 percent of the Federal poverty level, $44,486 annually for a family of four, and would also, for the first time, provide health insurance to the child's family. This provision would cost $394 billion over 10 years and would cover 12.4 million children and extend coverage to their families.

(6) Improving Program Integrity and Efficiency in the Medicare Program: The bill would raise the cap on Medicare contractor audit funding/program integrity from $720 million to $1 billion over a 5-year period. This provision would save an estimated $60 billion over the next 10 years.

(7) Reducing Medical Errors and Increasing the Use of Medical Technology: A provision is included that would provide for demonstration programs to test best practices for reducing errors, testing the use of appropriate technologies to reduce medical errors, such as hand-held electronic medication systems, and research in geographically diverse locations to determine the causes of medical errors. To assist in the development by the private sector of needed technology standards, the bill would provide for ways to examine use of information technology and coordinate actions by the Federal Government and ensure that this investment will further the national health information and infrastructure. This section of the legislation is projected to save $150 billion over the next 10 years.

(8) Improving Health Care Quality, Efficiency and Consumer Education: The legislation would set up demonstration projects to educate the public regarding wise consumer choices about their health care, such as appropriate health care costs and quality control information. The Department of HHS would be tasked with developing public service announcements to educate the public about their coverage choices, eligibility and preventive care services. Also included in this title is a provision on ways to improve the effectiveness and portability of advance directives and living wills. Projected cost savings of this section of the bill is $70 billion over the next 10 years.

(9) Primary and Preventive Care Services: Language is included to encourage the use of nonphysician providers such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and clinical nurse specialists by increasing direct reimbursement under Medicare and Medicaid without regard to the setting where services are provided. The bill also seeks to encourage students early on in their medical training to pursue a career in primary care and it provides assistance to medical training programs to recruit such students. The savings from this provision is estimated at $260 billion over a 10 year period.

The bill I am introducing today is distinct from my longstanding efforts regarding managed care reform. During the 105th, 106th, and 107th Congresses, I joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the Promoting Responsible Managed Care Act of 1998, 1999, and 2001 balanced proposals which would ensure that patients receive the benefits and services to which they are entitled, without compromising the savings and coordination of care that can be achieved through managed care.

I have advocated health care reform in one form or another throughout my 24 years in the Senate. My strong interest in health care dates back to my first term, when I sponsored S. 811, the Health Care for Displaced Workers Act of 1983, and S. 2051, the Health Care Cost Containment Act of 1983, which would have granted a limited antitrust exemption to health insurers, permitting them to engage in certain joint activities such as acquiring or processing information, and collecting and distributing insurance claims for health care services aimed at curtailing then escalating health care costs. In 1985, I introduced the Community-based Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Projects Act of 1985, S. 1873, directed at reducing the human tragedy of low birth weight babies and infant mortality. Since 1983, I have introduced and cosponsored numerous other bills concerning health care in our country.

During the 102nd Congress, I pressed the Senate to take action on the health care market issue. On July 29, 1992, I offered an amendment to legislation then pending on the Senate floor, which included a change from 25 percent to 100 percent deductibility for health insurance purchased by self-employed individuals, and small business insurance market reforms to make health coverage more affordable for small businesses. Included in this amendment were provisions from a bill introduced by the late Senator John Chafee, legislation which I cosponsored and which was previously proposed by Senators Bentsen and Durenberger. When then-majority leader Mitchell argued that the health care amendment I was proposing did not belong on that bill, I offered to withdraw the amendment if he would set a date certain to take up health care, similar to an arrangement made on product liability legislation, which had been placed on the calendar for September 8, 1992. The majority leader rejected that suggestion, and the Senate did not consider comprehensive health care legislation during the balance of the 102nd Congress. My July 29, 1992 amendment was defeated on a procedural motion by a vote of 35 to 60, along party lines.

The substance of that amendment, however, was adopted later by the Senate on September 23, 1992, when it was included in a Bentsen/Durenberger amendment which I cosponsored to broaden tax legislation, H.R. 11. This amendment, which included essentially the same self-employed tax deductibility and small group reforms I had proposed on July 29 of that year, passed the Senate by voice vote. Unfortunately, these provisions were later dropped from H.R. 11 in the House-Senate conference.

On August 12, 1992, I introduced legislation entitled the Health Care Affordability and Quality Improvement Act of 1992, S. 3176, that would have enhanced informed individual choice regarding health care services by providing certain information to health care recipients, would have lowered the cost of health care through use of the most appropriate provider, and would have improved the quality of health care.

On January 21, 1993, the first day of the 103rd Congress, I introduced the Comprehensive Health Care Act of 1993, S. 18. This legislation consisted of reforms that our health care system could have adopted immediately. These initiatives would have both improved access and affordability of insurance coverage and would have implemented systemic changes to lower the escalating cost of care in this country. S. 18 is the principal basis of the legislation I introduced in the last five Congresses as well as this one.

On March 23, 1993, I introduced the Comprehensive Access and Affordability Health Care Act of 1993, S. 631, which was a composite of health care legislation introduced by Senators COHEN, KASSEBAUM, BOND, and MCCAIN, and included pieces of my bill, S. 18. I introduced this legislation in an attempt to move ahead on the consideration of health care legislation and provide a starting point for debate. As I noted earlier, I was precluded by majority leader Mitchell from obtaining Senate consideration of my legislation as a floor amendment on several occasions. Finally, on April 28, 1993, I offered the text of S. 631 as an amendment to the pending Department of the Environment Act, S. 171, in an attempt to urge the Senate to act on health care reform. My amendment was defeated 65 to 33 on a procedural motion, but the Senate had finally been forced to contemplate action on health care reform.

On the first day of the 104th Congress, January 4, 1995, I introduced a slightly modified version of S. 18, the Health Care Assurance Act of 1995, also S. 18, which contained provisions similar to those ultimately enacted in the Kassebaum-Kennedy legislation, including insurance market reforms, an extension of the tax deductibility of health insurance for the self employed, and tax deductibility of long term care insurance.

I continued these efforts in the 105th Congress, with the introduction of Health Care Assurance Act of 1997, S. 24, which included market reforms similar to my previous proposals with the addition of a new Title I, an innovative program to provide vouchers to States to cover children who lack health insurance coverage. I also introduced Title I of this legislation as a stand-alone bill, the Healthy Children's Pilot Program of 1997, S. 435, on March 13, 1997. This proposal targeted the approximately 4.2 million children of the working poor who lacked health insurance at that time. These are children whose parents earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but do not earn enough to afford private health care coverage for their families.

This legislation would have established a $10 billion/5-year discretionary pilot program to cover these uninsured children by providing grants to States. Modeled after Pennsylvania's extraordinarily successful Caring and BlueCHIP programs, this legislation was the first Republican-sponsored children's health insurance bill during the 105th Congress.

I was encouraged that the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, signed into law on August 5, 1997, included a combination of the best provisions from many of the children's health insurance proposals throughout this Congress. The new legislation allocated $24 billion over 5 years to establish State Child Health Insurance Programs, funded in part by a slight increase in the cigarette tax.

During both the 106th and 107th Congresses, I again introduced the Health Care Assurance Act. These bills contained similar insurance market reforms, as well as new provisions to augment the new State Child Health Insurance Program, to assist individuals with disabilities in maintaining quality health care coverage, and to establish a National Fund for Health Research to supplement the funding of the National Institutes of Health. All these new initiatives, as well as the market reforms that I supported previously, work toward the goals of covering more individuals and stemming the tide of rising health costs.

My commitment to the issue of health care reform across all populations has been consistently evident during my tenure in the Senate, as I have taken to this floor and offered health care reform bills and amendments on countless occasions. I will continue to stress the importance of the Federal Government's investment in and attention to the system's future.

As my colleagues are aware, I can personally report on the miracles of modern medicine. Nearly 10 years ago, an MRI detected a benign tumor, meningioma, at the outer edge of my brain. It was removed by conventional surgery, with 5 days of hospitalization and 5 more weeks of recuperation.

When a small regrowth was detected by a follow-up MRI in June 1996, it was treated with high powered radiation using a remarkable device called the "Gamma Knife." I entered the hospital on the morning of October 11, 1996, and left the same afternoon, ready to resume my regular schedule. Like the MRI, the Gamma Knife is an innovation, coming into widespread use only in the past decade.

In July 1998, I was pleased to return to the Senate after a relatively brief period of convalescence following heart bypass surgery. This experience again led me to marvel at our health care system and made me more determined than ever to support Federal funding for biomedical research and to support legislation which will incrementally make health care available to all Americans.

My concern about health care has long pre-dated my own personal benefits from the MRI and other diagnostic and curative procedures. As I have previously discussed, my concern about health care began many years ago and has been intensified by my service on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which I now have the honor to chair.

My own experience as a patient has given me deeper insights into the American health care system beyond my perspective from the U.S. Senate. I have learned: (1) our health care system, the best in the world, is worth every cent we pay for it; (2) patients sometimes have to press their own cases beyond doctors' standard advice; (3) greater flexibility must be provided on testing and treatment; (4) our system has the resources to treat the 40.9 million Americans currently uninsured, but we must find the way to pay for it; and (5) all Americans deserve the access to health care from which I and others with coverage have benefited.

I have long been convinced that our Federal budget of $2.4 trillion could provide sufficient funding for America's needs if we establish our real priorities. Over the past 10 years, I believe we have learned a great deal about our health care system and what the American people are willing to accept from the Federal Government. The message we heard loudest was that Americans do not want a massive overhaul of the health care system. Instead, our constituents want Congress to proceed at a slower pace and to target what is not working in the health care system while leaving in place what is working.

While I would have been willing to cooperate with the Clinton administration in addressing this Nation's health care problems, I found many areas where I differed with President Clinton's approach to solutions. I believe that the proposals would have been deleterious to my fellow Pennsylvanians, to the American people, and to our health care system as a whole. Most importantly, as the President proposed in 1993, I did not support creating a large new government bureaucracy because I believe that savings should go to health care services and not bureaucracies.

On this latter issue, I first became concerned about the potential growth in bureaucracy in September 1993 after reading the President's 239-page preliminary health care reform proposal. I was surprised by the number of new boards, agencies, and commissions, so I asked my legislative assistant, Sharon Helfant, to make me a list of all of them. Instead, she decided to make a chart. The initial chart depicted 77 new entities and 54 existing entities with new or additional responsibilities.

When the President's 1,342-page Health Security Act was transmitted to Congress on October 27, 1993, my staff reviewed it and found an increase to 105 new agencies, boards, and commissions and 47 existing departments, programs and agencies with new or expanded jobs. This chart received national attention after being used by Senator Bob Dole in his response to the President's State of the Union address on January 24, 1994.

The response to the chart was tremendous, with more than 12,000 people from across the country contacting my office for a copy; I still receive requests for the chart nearly ten years later. Groups and associations, such as United We Stand America, the American Small Business Association, the National Federation of Republican Women, and the Christian Coalition, reprinted the chart in their publications-amounting to hundreds of thousands more in distribution. Bob Woodward of the Washington Post later stated that he thought the chart was the single biggest factor contributing to the demise of the Clinton health care plan. And during the November 1996 election, my chart was used by Senator Dole in his presidential campaign to illustrate the need for incremental health care reform as opposed to a big government solution.

The Department of Health and Human Services has stated that the health care, education, and child care for the 3.5 to 4 million low-birth-weight infants and children from their births to the time they reach 15 years old costs between $5.5 and $6 billion more than what it would have cost if those children had been born at normal weight. We know that in most instances, prenatal care is effective in preventing low-birth-weight babies. Numerous studies have demonstrated that low birth weight does not have a genetic link, but is instead most often associated with inadequate prenatal care or the lack of prenatal care. The short and long-term costs of saving and caring for infants of low birth weight are staggering.

It is a human tragedy for a child to be born weighing 16 ounces with attendant problems which last a lifetime. I first saw one pound babies in 1984 when I was astounded to learn that Pittsburgh, PA, had the highest infant mortality rate of African-American babies of any city in the United States. I wondered how that could be true of Pittsburgh, which has such enormous medical resources. It was an amazing thing for me to see a one pound baby, about as big as my hand. However, I am pleased to report that as a result of successful prevention initiatives like the Federal Healthy Start program, Pittsburgh's infant mortality has decreased 20 percent.

To improve pregnancy outcomes for women at risk of delivering babies of low birth weight and to reduce infant mortality and the incidence of low-birth-weight births, as well as improving the health and well-being of mothers and their families, I initiated action that led to the creation of the Healthy Start program in 1991. Working with the first Bush administration and Senator Harkin, as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee, we allocated $25 million in 1991 for the development of 15 demonstration projects. This number grew to 22 in 1994, to 75 projects in 1998, and the Health Resources and Services Administration expects this number to continue to increase. For fiscal year 2004, we secured $98 million for this vital program.

To help children and their families to truly get a healthy start requires that we continue to expand access to Head Start. This important program provides comprehensive services to low income children and families, including health, nutritional and social services that children need to achieve the school readiness goal of Head Start. I have strongly supported expanding this program to cover more children and families. Since FY'00, funding for Head Start has increased from $5.3 billion to the FY'04 level of $6.8 billion. Additional funding has extended the reach of this important program to the current level of approximately 920,000 children.

Our attention to improved health of children shifts to the school house door, as all children enroll in schools throughout the Nation. And it is in the schools where we have taken our next steps to improve the overall health of the Nation and reduce preventable health care expenditures. In the past 15 years, obesity has increased by over 50 percent among adults and in the past 20 years, obesity has increased by 100 percent among children and adolescents. A recent analysis by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NICHD, Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development found that third grade children in the study received an average of 25 minutes per week in school of moderate to vigorous activity, while experts in the United States have recommended that young people should participate in physical activity of at least moderate intensity for 30 to 60 minutes each day. That is why I have supported increased funding for the Carole M. White Physical Education for Progress program. Since it was first funded at $5 million in FY 2001, this program has grown to $70 million in FY 2004. These funds help school districts and community based programs across the country improve and expand physical education programs in school, while also helping children develop healthy lifestyles to combat the epidemic of obesity in the Nation.

The Labor-HHS bill also has made great strides in increasing funding for a variety of public health programs, such as breast and cervical cancer prevention, childhood immunizations, family planning, and community health centers. These programs are designed to improve public health and prevent disease through primary and secondary prevention initiatives. It is essential that we invest more resources in these programs now if we are to make any substantial progress in reducing the costs of acute care in this country.

As chairman of the Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, I have greatly encouraged the development of prevention programs which are essential to keeping people healthy and lowering the cost of health care in this country. In my view, no aspect of health care policy is more important. Accordingly, my prevention efforts have been widespread.

I joined my colleagues in efforts to ensure that funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, increased $3.9 billion or 390 percent since 1989, for a fiscal year 2004 total of $4.9 billion. We have also worked to increase funding for CDC's breast and cervical cancer early detection program to $209.5 million in fiscal year 2004, almost double its 1993 total.

I have also supported programs at CDC which help children. CDC's childhood immunization program seeks to eliminate preventable diseases through immunization and to ensure that at least 90 percent of 2-year-olds are vaccinated. The CDC also continues to educate parents and caregivers on the importance of immunization for children under 2 years. Along with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee, I have helped ensure that funding for this important program together with the complementary Vaccines for Children Program has grown from $914 million in 1999 to $1.8 billion in fiscal year 2004. The CDC's lead poisoning prevention program annually identifies about 50,000 children with elevated blood levels and places those children under medical management. The program prevents the amount of lead in children's blood from reaching dangerous levels and has grown from $38.2 million in fiscal year 2000 to $41.7 million in fiscal year 2004.

In recent years, we have also strengthened funding for Community Health Centers, which provide immunizations, health advice, and health professions training. These centers, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, provide a critical primary care safety net to rural and medically underserved communities, as well as uninsured individuals, migrant workers, the homeless, residents of public housing, and Medicaid recipients. Funding for Community Health Centers has increased from $1 billion in fiscal year 2000 to $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2004.

As former chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and current chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over nondefense biomedical research, I have worked to transfer CIA imaging technology to the fight against breast cancer. Through the Office of Women's Health within the Department of Health and Human Services, I secured a $2 million contract in fiscal year 1996 for a research consortium led by the University of Pennsylvania to perform the first clinical trials testing the use of intelligence technology for breast cancer detection. My Appropriations subcommittee has
continued to provide funds to continue these clinical trials.

In 1998, I cosponsored the Women's Health Research and Prevention Amendments, which was signed into law later that year. This bill revised and extended certain programs with respect to women's health research and prevention activities at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 1996, I also cosponsored an amendment to the Fiscal Year 1997 VA-HUD Appropriations bill which required that health plans provide coverage for a minimum hospital stay for a mother and child following the birth of the child. This bill became law in 1996.

I have also been a strong supporter of funding for AIDS research, education, and prevention programs.

During the 101st Congress I cosponsored the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act of 1990 which amended the Public Health Service Act to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, to make grants in any metropolitan area that has reported and confirmed more than 2,000 acquired immune deficiency syndrome, AIDS, cases or a per capita incidence of at least 0.0025, eligible area. This legislation requires that the grants be directed to the chief elected official of the city or urban county that administers the public health agency serving the greatest number of individuals with AIDS in the eligible area. This bill became law in 1990.

During the 104th Congress I cosponsored the Ryan White CARE Reauthorization Act of 1995 which provided federal funds to metropolitan areas and states to assist in health care costs and support services for individuals and families affected by acquired immune deficiency syndrome, AIDS, or infection with the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV. This bill became law in 1996.

Funding for Ryan White AIDS programs has increased from $757.4 million in 1996 to $2.02 billion for fiscal year 2004. Within the fiscal year 2004 funding, $73 million was included for pediatric AIDS programs and $749 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, ADAP. AIDS research at the NIH totaled $742.4 million in 1989, and has increased to an estimated $2.9 billion in fiscal year 2004.

The health care community continues to recognize the importance of prevention in improving health status and reducing health care costs. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and the Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations Act of fiscal year 2001 established new and enhanced preventive benefits within the Medicare program, such as flu shots, bone mass measurements, yearly mammograms, biennial pap smears and pelvic exams, and coverage of colonoscopy for high risk patients. However, some of these "wellness" benefits have cost obligations, such as co payments or deductibles. In this bill, I have also included provisions which refine and strengthen preventive benefits within the Medicare program, including coverage of yearly pap smears, pelvic exams, and screening and diagnostic mammography with no copayment or Part B deductible; and coverage of insulin pumps for certain Type I Diabetics.

During the 102nd Congress, I cosponsored an amendment to the Veterans' Medical Programs Amendments of 1992 which included improvements to health and mental health care and other services to veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This bill became law in 1992.

During the 106th Congress, I sponsored the Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2000 which increased amounts of educational assistance for veterans under the Montgomery GI Bill and enhanced health programs. This bill became law in 2000.

I also sponsored the Department of Veterans Affairs Long-Term Care and Personnel Authorities Enhancement Act which improved and enhanced the provision of health for veterans. This bill became law in 2003.

I cosponsored the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act which became law in 2003. This Act provided $20 billion in fiscal relief to the states, half of which went toward Medicaid relief.

In 1996, I cosponsored the Health Coverage Availability and Affordability Act, which improved the portability and continuity of health insurance coverage in the group and individual markets, combated waste, fraud, and abuse in health insurance and health care delivery, promoted the use of medical savings accounts, improved access to long-term care services and coverage, and simplified the administration of health insurance. This bill became law in 1996.

On November 29, 1999, the Institute of Medicine, IOM, issued a report entitled "To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System." The IOM Report estimated that anywhere between 44,000 and 98,000 hospitalized Americans die each year due to avoidable medical mistakes. However only a fraction of these deaths and injuries are due to negligence; most errors are caused by system failures. The IOM issued a comprehensive set of recommendations, including the establishment of a nationwide, mandatory reporting system; incorporation of patient safety standards in regulatory and accreditation programs; and the development of a non-punitive "culture of safety" in health care organizations. The report called for a 50 percent reduction in medical errors over 5 years.

After the report was issued I held a series of three LHHS hearings on medical errors: Dec. 13, 1999-to discuss the findings of the Institute of Medicine's report on medical errors; Jan. 25, 2000-a joint hearing with the Committee on Veterans' Affairs to discuss a national error reporting system and the VA's national patient safety program; Feb. 22, 2000-a joint hearing with the HELP Committee to discuss the Administration's strategy to reduce medical errors.

After hearing from Government witnesses and experts in the field on medical errors, I included $50 million in the FY 2001 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education for a patient safety initiative. In the Senate report I also directed the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, AHRQ, to: (1) develop guidelines on the collection of uniform error data;
(2) establish a competitive demonstration program to test "best practices;" and (3) research ways to improve provider training.

The committee also directed AHRQ to prepare an interim report to Congress concerning the results of the demonstration program within 2 years of the beginning of the projects. The FY 2002 Senate report directed AHRQ to submit a report detailing the results of its initiative to reduce medical errors. HHS combined both reports into one, which it submitted to me earlier this year.

Since FY 2001 the Labor/HHS Subcommittee has included within the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality funding for research into ways to reduce medical errors. The FY 2002 appropriation was $55 million, in FY 2003 another $55 million was provided, in FY 2004 the appropriation was increased to $79.5 million and in FY 2005, while still pending Senate action a figure of $84 million is proposed.

Statistics find that 30 percent of Medicare expenditures occur during a person's last year of life and beyond the last year of life, a tremendous percentage of medical costs occur in the last month, in the last few weeks, in the last week, or in the last few days.

A New England Journal of Medicine article stated that as much as 3.3 percent of national health care costs could be saved yearly by reducing the use of end of life interventions. While some estimates of the end of life costs have been projected to be over $500 billion, over a 10-year period, the cost analysis in this bill does not include any of these estimates in the projected savings calculations.

The issue of cutting back on end of life treatments is such a sensitive subject and no one should decide for anybody else what that person should have by way of end-of-life medical care. What care ought to be available is a very personal decision.

Living wills give an individual an opportunity to make that judgment, to make a decision as to how much care he or she wanted near the end of his or her life and that is, to repeat, a matter highly personalized for the individual.

As part of a public education program, I included an amendment to the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003 which directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to include in its annual "Medicare And You" handbook, a section that specifies information on advance directives and details on living wills and durable powers of attorney regarding a person's health care decisions.

As chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, I have worked to provide much-needed resources for hospitals, physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals. The National Institutes of Health provides funding for biomedical research at our Nation's universities, hospitals, and research institutions. I led the effort to double funding for the National Institutes of Health over 5 years. Funding for the NIH has increased from $11.3 billion in fiscal year 1995 to $28 billion in fiscal year 2004.

An adequate number of health professionals, including doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, laboratory technicians, and chiropractors is critical to the provision of health care in the United States. I have worked to provide much needed funding for health professional training and recruitment programs. In fiscal year 2004, these vital programs received $436 million. Nurse education and recruitment alone has been increased from $58 million in fiscal year 1996 to $142 million in fiscal year 2004.

Once recruited and trained, health professionals must be given the resources to provide quality health care in all areas of the country. Differences in reimbursement rates between rural and urban areas have led to significant problems in health professional retention. During the debate on the Balanced Budget Refinement Act 2, which passed as part of the FY 2001 consolidated appropriations bill, I attempted to reclassify some Northeastern hospitals in Pennsylvania to a Metropolitan Statistical Area with higher reimbursement rates. Due to the large volume of requests from other states, we were not able to accomplish these reclassifications for Pennsylvania. However, as part of the FY 2004 Omnibus Appropriations bill, I secured $7 million for twenty northeastern Pennsylvania hospitals affected by area wage index shortfalls.

As part of the Medicare Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003, which passed the Senate on November 25, 2003, a $900 million program was established to provide a one-time appeal process for hospital wage index reclassification. Thirteen Pennsylvania hospitals were approved for funding through this program in Pennsylvania.

The following table outlines the $540 billion in projected health care costs offset by the $540 billion in health care saving assumptions contained in the provisions of the Health Care Assurance Act of 2004. These costs and savings are for a 10-year period.

The provisions which I have outlined today contain my ideas for a framework to provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans. I am opposed to rationing health care. I do not want rationing for myself, for my family, or for America. I believe we can provide care for the 43 million Americans who are now not covered by savings in other areas of the $1.7 trillion currently being spent on health care. The time has come for concerted action in this arena. I urge my colleagues to move this legislation forward promptly.

Skip to top
Back to top