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Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I support the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. America has 47 million people without health insurance, including more than 240,000 West Virginians, and the number grows every week. More than half of West Virginia's uninsured are between the ages of 19 and 49. Health care consumes more than 15 percent of our national gross domestic product. Health care reform should matter to every West Virginian.
When the health care debate began last year, I urged the Senate to forgo using the budget reconciliation process to shield a comprehensive reform bill from debate and amendment. I am pleased that the Senate heeded that call, and opted to consider the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act under the cloture rule and the regular procedures.
When amendments to that measure were proposed by the President, to be enacted through the budget reconciliation process, I insisted that those amendments be considered in a manner consistent with the Congressional Budget Act and section 313 of that act, the Byrd rule. The reconciliation bill must not address extraneous matter, and it must--absolutely must--reduce the deficit. This measure meets that test. I applaud the Senate for bringing the health care debate to a close in a manner that is balanced, fair, and equitable. The rights of the minority have been protected, and the Senate has upheld its historical role as a forum for debate and amendment.
While this bill as passed may not satisfy the individual concerns of each and every constituent or member of Congress, it does begin to satisfy the growing needs of millions of Americans who find themselves without access to the medical services and attention they need. Access to proper health care for every American citizen should not only be held as a necessity, it should be considered the commensurate right of any and every citizen of the mightiest and most advanced Nation the world has ever known.
Mr. President, in order to clarify for the record, I want to make it known that section 1556 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is intended to apply to all claims filed after January 1, 2005, that are pending on or after the date of enactment of that act.
It is clear that the section will apply to all claims that will be filed henceforth, including many claims filed by miners whose prior claims were denied, or by widows who never filed for benefits following the death of a husband. But section 1556 will also benefit all of the claimants who have recently filed a claim, and are awaiting or appealing a decision or order, or who are in the midst of trying to determine whether to seek a modification of a recent order.
Section 1556 applies immediately to all pending claims, including claims that were finally awarded or denied prior to the date of enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, for which the claimant seeks to modify a denial, or for which other actions are taken in order to modify an award or denial, in accordance with 20 CFR 725.309(c) or 725.310. Section 1556 applies even if a final order is modified, or actions are taken to bring about the modification of an order, subsequent to the date of enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in accordance with the sections of Part 725 that I mentioned. I look forward to working to ensure that claimants get a fair shake as they try to gain access to these benefits that have been so hard won.
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