After decades of inaction, America's health care system is crumbling. More than 47 million Americans have no insurance. In 2007 and 2008 alone, over 85 million Americans went without health insurance for some period of time. And over the last decade, health care premiums for families doubled and are on track to double again over the next ten years. Health care spending consumes one-sixth of our national economy -- more than we spend on national defense. And each and every one of us is paying a hidden tax totaling $1,100 a year to cover the cost of emergency room care for those with no insurance.
Kirsten believes health care is a right, not a privilege, and came to the U.S. Senate determined to fix health care, cover the uninsured, cut costs and crack down on insurance company abuses. And that's exactly what she's doing.
Over the past year, Kirsten has worked side by side with President Obama to pass a historic health care reform bill that will achieve several important goals:
* Insurance Company Reforms
Health insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or issue exorbitant rate hikes when we get sick and need care the most.
* Lower Prescription Drug Costs for Seniors and Stronger Medicare
More than half a million New York seniors will be rescued from the Part D "Doughnut Hole," receiving access to affordable, lifesaving prescription drugs through a stronger, more efficient Medicare system.
Affordability - Competition for Consumers, Small Business Tax Credits
Up to 249,000 New York small businesses will be eligible for tax credits for a percentage of their contribution to their employees' health insurance. Small businesses of the size that qualify for these tax credits, employ 1.2 million New Yorkers. For the consumer, it will also provide tax credits for up to 1.6 million New Yorkers to help make health insurance more affordable.
* Preventive Health Care, Lowering the National Deficit
By focusing on preventive health care, we'll be able to cut waste from our health care system and reduce the national deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years, with $1.2 trillion in additional deficit reductions the following decade.
* Billions More for NY
2.7 million uninsured New Yorkers will finally have access to affordable health care, and will no longer need to go right to the emergency room when they get sick, lowering costs for everyone. And while our state is facing a historic budget crisis, this legislation will provide billions more through Medicaid to help treat children and families who have been hit the hardest in these difficult economic times.
The following reforms go into effect in 2010:
* Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions;
* Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition are provided with immediate access to insurance through the establishment of a temporary high-risk pool;
* Insurance companies are prohibited from dropping people from coverage when they get sick;
* Seniors' prescription drug prices are lowered as we begin to close the donut hole;
* Small businesses get tax credits to purchase coverage;
* Lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits are eliminated;
* Enrollees' dependent children are guaranteed coverage until age 26;
* New plans are required to cover all preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
* Consumers are guaranteed access to an internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
* Insurers with high administrative costs are required to send premium rebates to enrollees and disclose the percent of premiums that are applied to overhead costs.
Ultimately, this bill will deliver care to 30 million more Americans, will bring down health care costs for everyone, and will reduce our deficit by more than $1 trillion over 20 years.
While Kirsten believes this bill is a historic step, she will continue to fight to establish a "Medicare for All" system that would let Americans pay a percentage of their income into a public health plan -- making health care accessible and affordable for all Americans for generations.
As the mother of two young children, Kirsten knows just how personal health care is for New York families. One of her first actions in the U.S. Senate was to help provide access to basic health care coverage for 11 million lower- and middle-income children. With her work on childhood diseases such as autism, juvenile diabetes and child obesity, Kirsten is a fierce advocate for the health of America's next generation.
From her days in the House of Representatives, Kirsten has been one of the leading voices for improving health care for America's veterans. These heroes and their families have sacrificed for our country and deserve the highest-quality care. As senator, Kirsten is working to improve health care services at the Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals and expand access at local civilian hospitals.
As a member of the Senate's Special Committee on Aging, Kirsten fights for the health of seniors. She was strongly opposed to President George Bush's efforts to privatize social security. She supports efforts to make medicine more affordable and favors increasing efforts to combat all forms of elder abuse and neglect.
The problems with our health care system did not happen overnight. They were generations in the making. But with President Obama's health care reform package that Kirsten helped pass, we can begin to move our health care system, our families and our entire economy in the right direction again.