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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, a silent killer is loose in America. It contributes to the deaths of 15,000 and threatens the health of 5.3 million Americans each year. It is more common than HIV/AIDS. It is the leading cause of liver cancer, which is on the rise and continues to be a fatal and costly disease. Yet it remains unrecognized as a serious threat to public health. This silent killer is viral hepatitis.

That is why I am introducing the Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2010, which authorizes $600 million to develop a national strategy over the next five years to prevent and control Hepatitis B and C.

Most people don't even know they have it until years later when it causes cancer or liver disease. We can help avoid such needless tragedies with prevention and surveillance programs and by educating Americans on the pervasive nature of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

In January, the Institute of Medicine, IOM, released a report entitled ``Hepatitis and Liver Cancer.'' The report concludes that the current approach toward treating hepatitis is not working. Too many Americans at-risk for hepatitis or living with it do not know it and too many health providers are not screening for it. That should come as no surprise because there is no Federal funding of core public health services for viral hepatitis. Also, there is no federally funded chronic Hepatitis B and C surveillance system.

The IOM report calls for a national strategy to prevent and control Hepatitis B and C.

Hepatitis B is 100 times more infectious than HIV and, left untreated, can cause liver disease, liver cancer and premature death decades after infection. About 2 billion people worldwide have been infected with Hepatitis B and about 170 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis C. Tragically, 2/3 of those infected, on average, are unaware of their status, which increases the chance of spreading the disease.

Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary of Health, has convened a task force including representatives from all Department of Health and Human Services agencies to develop an action plan to implement the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine Report.

Unless action is taken to prevent chronic Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, thousands more Americans will die each year from liver cancer or liver disease related to these preventable diseases.

The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a national plan for the prevention, control and medical management of viral hepatitis in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, the National Institutes for Health, the National Cancer Institute, NCI, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The national plan is required to include the following components: education and awareness programs; an expansion of current vaccination programs; counseling regarding the ongoing risk factors associated with viral hepatitis; support for medical evaluation and ongoing medical management; increased support for adult viral hepatitis coordinators; and the establishment of an epidemiological surveillance program to identify trends in incidence and prevalence in the disease.

The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2010 also
enhances SAMHSA's role in hepatitis activities by providing the agency with the authority to develop educational materials and intervention strategies to reduce the risks of hepatitis among substance abusers and individuals with mental illness.

It authorizes nearly $600 million over the next five years to fund the national strategy to prevent and control viral hepatitis.

I believe this investment in hepatitis control and prevention could save our country billions of dollars in the coming years. The baby boomer population is estimated to account for two out of every three cases of chronic Hepatitis C. As these Americans age into Medicare they are likely to develop complications and require expensive medical interventions at great cost to taxpayers. In the next decade, the costs of Hepatitis C to commercial insurance and Medicare will more than double, and within 20 years Medicare costs will increase five-fold. Projecting further out, over the next 20 years, total medical costs for patients with Hepatitis C infection could increase more than 2.5 times--from $30 billion to more than $85 billion.

However, the costs for early detection and intervention are dramatically less than the costs for treatment post-infection. The costs for Hepatitis B vaccinations vary but range from $75 to $165, whereas treatment can cost up to $16,000 per year. Screening for Hepatitis C is also relatively inexpensive compared to treatment that can cost up to $25,000 per year. Untreated, these infections will develop into liver disease that can cost up to $110,000 per hospital admission. We can do better.

Viral hepatitis is an increasingly significant issue for Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports over 2,000 cases of newly diagnosed chronic Hepatitis B infection and 8,000 to 10,000 cases of newly diagnosed chronic Hepatitis C infection each year. Viral hepatitis infections are by far the highest volume of reportable infectious diseases to the state. Additionally, there has been and continues to be a striking increase of cases of Hepatitis C infection among adolescents and young adults in the state. The Department of Public Health has received reports on over 1,000 cases in people under the age of 25 years every year since 2007, indicating that there is a new epidemic of Hepatitis C disease.

Resources to address these complex problems have been extremely limited. Federal resources are scarce with the average award per state of $90,000 from the Division of Viral Hepatitis at CDC. That is less than the cost of one hospital admission for liver disease.

The Massachusetts State Legislature has, until recently, provided modest funding to support Hepatitis C initiatives in the state. At this time, all of that funding, $1.4 million annually for the past several years, has been eliminated due to the ongoing fiscal crisis. However, past funding has allowed Massachusetts to develop innovative programs in many areas.

State funds have supported disease surveillance initiatives so that changes in the epidemics can be detected, such as the increase of cases of Hepatitis C infection among young people or to identify cases of viral hepatitis that are being transmitted through non-sterile practices in health care settings. Disease surveillance programs have been used to identify women of childbearing age that are infected with Hepatitis B so that transmission to their babies can be prevented.

The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2010 would provide critical assistance to Massachusetts and other states by starting to provide appropriate levels of funding to address these epidemics of disease.

In Massachusetts, funding would be used to expand disease surveillance efforts so that we can better understand the impact of these infections and direct services appropriately to highly impacted communities. It would help to expand screening and educational services to help identify the large numbers of people in the state living with Hepatitis B and C that have not been identified. It would provide support to address the complex prevention needs of adolescents and young adults who are using drugs and at-risk for infection.

Increased funding for adult immunization would assist the State in better targeting and providing Hepatitis B vaccine to the adults at highest risk, including those that are incarcerated and being treated for drug abuse. Finally, it would also help to provide essential medical management for people already infected with Hepatitis B and C who are not able to access appropriate care currently.

I would like to thank a number of organizations who have been integral to the development of the Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2010. I am pleased that 102 hepatitis focused organizations from across the Nation have endorsed the legislation, including the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, NASTAD, the Hepatitis B Foundation, the Hepatitis C Association, American Association for the Study of Liver Disease, and the Hepatitis Education Project.

We have no time to waste. This legislation, along with strategic investments in public health and prevention programs, can save billions of hard earned taxpayer dollars. It can improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of people all over America. I urge my colleagues to support activities that promote early detection and education and to cosponsor this important legislation.

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I am introducing the Clean Energy Technology Leadership Act. This legislation would provide tax incentives for clean energy manufacturing, renewable energy, and conservation. This is a critical package of incentives to drive the development and deployment of clean energy technology in the United States. It also will expand our manufacturing base to ensure that these advanced energy technologies are made here in America.

This bill is not intended to serve as a substitute for comprehensive energy and climate legislation. However, it does provide a near-term opportunity to support the development and deployment of clean energy technologies.

Congress must continue working on legislation that will put us on a course to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the events of the last several weeks have made it clear that there is no bipartisan support for a strong energy and climate bill. In the interim, we should act on areas where there is potential agreement. The Clean Energy Technology Leadership Act is broad energy tax legislation that focuses on tax incentives to encourage renewable energy and conservation. This legislation would extend and improve existing provisions in the tax code and provides some targeted new incentives.

The legislation would promote clean energy manufacturing by providing additional funding for the advanced energy manufacturing credit and uncapping the credit for solar energy property, fuel cell power generation, and advanced energy storage systems, including batteries for advanced vehicles. In addition, the legislation would extend the credit for domestic manufacturers of energy appliances.

To encourage the production of renewable energy, the Clean Energy Technology Leadership Act would extend for 2 years and codify the grant in lieu of tax credit program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It modifies the program to clarify that real estate investment trusts and public power would be eligible for the program. The legislation provides an additional $3.5 billion for clean renewable energy bonds, with 60 percent allocated to public power and the remaining 40 percent to cooperative electric rural companies. The Clean Energy Technology Leadership Act extends the research and development tax credit retroactively through 2012. For 2011 and 2012, it would increase the R&D credit by ten percent for research expenditures related to the fields of fuel cells and battery technology, renewable energy, energy conservation technology, efficient transmission and distribution of electricity, and carbon capture and sequestration.

To encourage conservation, the Clean Energy Technology Leadership Act would extend and modify tax incentives for new energy efficient homes, nonbusiness energy property improvements, and energy efficient commercial buildings. The bill also would provide incentives for clean transportation by providing incentives for natural gas use in heavy vehicles.

These provisions will encourage investments in developing and deploying renewable energy and conservation solutions, which will result in lower greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Energy Technology Leadership Act is not a comprehensive energy and climate solution, but I believe it is an important starting point. I am hopeful that we can secure bipartisan support for these and other important tax provisions and pass them this year.

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