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Public Statements

Providing For Consideration Of Senate Amendments To H.R. 4872, Health Care And Education Reconciliation Act Of 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Speaker, earlier this week history was made with the enactment into law of the comprehensive access to quality affordable health insurance for all Americans. Tonight we complete action on this legislation and cement for all Americans their sense of security that they will always be able to afford and access health care for themselves and their families.

Since our passage of the underlying legislation last weekend, the American people are beginning to fully appreciate the benefits that we have written into law. When fully implemented, reform will bring 32 million uninsured Americans into the health insurance system, seniors will see immediate help with the cost of their prescription drugs, and people who have preexisting medical conditions will not be denied health insurance or charged more for that insurance. If you lose your job, you will not lose access to health care.

Our vote tonight improves on what President Obama signed into law on Tuesday. This includes closing the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage, including the rebate this year to eligible seniors; improving affordability for those with income up to 400 percent of the poverty level; eliminating the special Medicaid deal for Nebraska; and increasing matching rates to States for the costs of services to newly eligible individuals to 100 percent for the first 3 years of coverage expansions.

Increasing Medicaid payments. The rates will be increased for primary care physicians so that new Medicaid beneficiaries will have access to primary care and a greater investment into community health centers. These initiatives are fully funded and paid for.

The reconciliation bill reduces the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next two decades.

Health security is a fundamental right for every American, and we remain faithfully committed to that objective.

I want to use my time here to give special thanks to our health team on our staff. First of all I want to single out Karen Nelsen, who has been director of the health staff going back to the time I was chairman of the Health and Environment Subcommittee and during the time we were over at the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. With her able assistance, we have Jack Ebeler, Tim Gronniger, Andy Schneider, Purvee Kempf, Brian Cohen, Ruth Katz, Anne Morris, Tim Westmoreland, Stephen Cha, Virgil Miller, Katie Campbell, Bobbie Clark, Sarah Dupres and Naomi Seiler.

I want to just close by saying I wish the Republicans would have worked with us instead of fighting this bill every step of the way. They're complaining now they didn't get amendments, but when we called on them to help us, they said no. They wouldn't work with us on the stimulus bill, they wouldn't work with us on the energy bill, they wouldn't work with us on the health bill, but we got it done anyway.

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Mr. Speaker, the bill is to be commended as a model of cooperative federalism. Under the new law, ``a State is free to establish a health insurance exchange if it so chooses. But if it declines, the Secretary will establish an exchange.'' This is a strong example of what the Supreme Court has recognized as an appropriate exercise of federal power to encourage State participation in important federal programs. ``[W]here Congress has the authority to regulate private activity under the Commerce Clause, we have recognized Congress' power to offer States the choice of regulating that activity according to federal standards or having state law pre-empted by federal regulation. Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Assn., Inc., supra, 452 U.S., at 288, 101 S.Ct., at 2366. See also FERC v. Mississippi, supra, 456 U.S., at 764-765, 102 S.Ct., at 2140. This arrangement, which has been termed ``a program of cooperative federalism,'' Hodel, supra, 452 U.S., at 289, 101 S.Ct., at 2366, is replicated in numerous federal statutory schemes.'' New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 165 (1992).

INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY

The individual responsibility requirement requires individuals to pay a tax on their individual tax filings or provide information documenting they fulfill the requirements for having essential minimum coverage over the past year. Congress makes the following findings to support this requirement, these are in addition to those made on Sunday, March 21, 2010:

(1) The requirement is necessary to achieve near-universal coverage while maintaining the current private-public system. It builds upon and strengthens private employer-based health insurance, which covers 176,000,000 Americans nationwide. In Massachusetts, a similar requirement has strengthened employer-based coverage: despite the economic downturn, the number of workers offered employer-based coverage has actually increased. Sharon K. Long and Karen Stockley, Massachusetts Health Reform: Employer Coverage from Employees' Perspective, Health Affairs, October 1, 2009.

(2) Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, if there were no requirement, many individuals would wait to purchase health insurance until they needed care. Those individuals would then get the benefit of the lower premiums that are a direct result of the Act's reforms, even though those lower premiums result in part from the fact that other younger and healthier people bought insurance at an earlier point. Higher-risk individuals would be more likely to enroll in coverage, increasing premiums and costs to the government. The Urban Institute, January 2008. The requirement will broaden the private health insurance risk pool to include healthy individuals, which will spread risk, stabilize the market, and lower premiums. Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of Health Insurance Premiums Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, November 30, 2009. It is necessary to create effective private health insurance markets throughout the country in which improved health insurance products that are guaranteed issue and do not exclude coverage of pre-existing conditions can be sold.

(3) Administrative costs for private health insurance, which were $90,000,000,000 in 2006, are 26 to 30 percent of premiums in the current individual and small group markets. Congressional Budget Office, December 2008. The requirement is necessary to create effective private health insurance markets throughout the country that do not require underwriting, eliminating its associated administrative costs. By significantly increasing health insurance coverage and the size of purchasing pools, which will increase economies of scale, the requirement, together with the other provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will significantly reduce administrative costs and lower health insurance premiums.

(4) Health insurance and health care services are a substantial part of the national economy. National health spending is projected to increase from $2,500,000,000,000, or 17.6 percent of the economy, in 2009 to $4,700,000,000,000 in 2019. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Office of the Actuary, National Health Expenditure Projections, 2008-2018. Private health insurance spending is projected to be $854,000,000,000 in 2009, and pays for medical supplies, drugs, and equipment that are shipped in interstate commerce. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Office of the Actuary. Since most health insurance is sold by national or regional health insurance companies, health insurance is sold in interstate commerce and claims payments flow through interstate commerce.

(5) The requirement, together with the other provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will add more than 30,000,000 consumers to the health insurance market. Congressional Budget Office, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Incorporating the Manager's Amendment, December 19, 2009. In doing so, it will increase the demand for, and the supply of, health care services. According to one estimate, the use of health care by the currently uninsured could increase by 25 to 60 percent. Congressional Budget Office, December 2008.

(6) Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, the Public Health Service Act, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Federal Government has a significant role in regulating health insurance. The requirement is an essential part of this larger regulation of economic activity, and the absence of the requirement would undercut Federal regulation of the health insurance market.

(7) Payments collected from individuals who fail to maintain minimum essential coverage will contribute revenue that will help the Federal government finance a reformed health insurance system that ensures the availability of health insurance to all Americans.

The preceding 7 points cite numerous studies and papers which illustrate the extensive evidence that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by Section 1002 of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, substantially affects interstate commerce. These citations are included as hyperlinks or in their written entirety for the record.

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