Every day I hear from Arkansans concerned about the skyrocketing costs of health care and the drain these costs are having on their health, wallets, and businesses. Addressing rising costs and deplorable insurance company practices requires more than a band-aid approach; it requires meaningful reform. Throughout this lengthy debate, I have said any reform must make coverage more affordable, reliable and accessible without breaking the bank, and I believe the Senate legislation achieves these goals.
Elements of this package will drive down costs for families, small businesses, and government; protect and expand an individual's choice of doctors and insurance plans without any government interference; and assure affordable, reliable healthcare for every Arkansan. That means ending unfair insurance company practices, such as dropping patients when they get sick or denying them coverage based on a preexisting condition. It eliminates the $1,000 a year "hidden tax" that every insured Arkansas family has to pay for those who do not have insurance. This tax cost Arkansans a total of $656 million last year. This legislation also strengthens Medicare by reducing waste and fraud in the program, protecting benefits for seniors, closing the gap in prescription drug coverage, and improving the program's long-term fiscal outlook. I'm pleased we also make a strong commitment to ensure residents living in rural parts of Arkansas have better access to doctors, nurses and high-quality health care. In addition, this plan increases competition by allowing individuals to purchase insurance across state lines.
This legislation lays the foundation for more affordable, reliable and accessible health care in Arkansas, and I believe it is in the best interests of our state and country. I have chosen this path over the cost of inaction: millions of uninsured Americans, skyrocketing health costs for the average family and business, profit-driven insurance company decisions, and higher government spending. With this bill, we are taking our country a great leap forward to ensure a healthier, stronger America.
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