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Issue Position: Health Care

Issue Position

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Why I Voted Against the Senate Healthcare Bill

Everyone deserves healthcare treatment. Everyone deserves access to healthcare insurance. Everyone deserves both at an affordable cost.

However, this healthcare bill is not the answer. It is the wrong approach--one which ignores the concerns and needs of the American people, while increasing the financial burden through excessive taxes, especially on small businesses.

It places control in the hands of government bureaucrats rather than letting Americans decide for themselves what is best for their families.

We need to promote common-sense solutions that make healthcare easily accessible and affordable to all Americans-- solutions like preventing denial of coverage due to a pre-existing condition or ensuring that your coverage stays with you even when you change jobs.

We should eliminate healthcare insurance discrimination based on age or gender and encourage real competition in the healthcare insurance market.

We must enact reforms to prevent frivolous lawsuits so that doctors will not be forced to order unnecessary and expensive tests and procedures. This will help eliminate costly waste and inefficiency in the system. These changes, along with effective prevention, wellness, and disease management programs, will help reduce the cost of healthcare.

This Senate bill makes little sense for seniors. It is a fiscal time bomb for future generations, and I do not want to leave this legacy of debt to my granddaughter.

The Majority was aware of the cost and impact of this bill. They should have worked in an open, bipartisan fashion. Instead, we are left with a bill with job killing tax increases in the middle of a terrible economic recession.

This is a bill with billions of dollars in tax increases. There is a tax on anyone who does not purchase bureaucrat approved health insurance. There is a tax on businesses that cannot afford to provide their workers with health coverage and another tax for hiring low-wage workers.

In South Florida, the construction industry has a 27% industry unemployment rate yet this bill taxes those workers especially hard.

The Congressional Budget Office has stated that all of these taxes will be passed on to Americans in higher costs and rising insurance premiums. If you wanted an expansion of IRS, more than 16,000 new agents will be hired to ensure that Americans are complying with all the new mandates.

This bill makes no effort to control the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. I am disappointed that we have missed an opportunity to tackle a huge problem in South Florida and in the nation: eliminating Medicare fraud. It tries to fool the consumer by finding creative ways to hide healthcare costs in new taxes, mandates, and cuts.

The bill also contains over $523 billion in Medicare cuts, including over $202 billion from Medicare Advantage plans that serve tens of thousands of my constituents directly.

Medicare helps so many seniors in our community-- seniors like my mother, who is 83 and suffers from Alzheimer's-- live longer and healthier lives. When I see this bill taking benefits away from seniors like her, I worry tremendously.

This bill also includes cuts of millions of dollars to elderly home care; millions of dollars cut for Alzheimer's programs; and millions of dollars cut to the food-for-seniors program.

The only way to coerce passage of this bill was through special deals for special interests. The Majority has weighed the bill down with political handouts such as millions of dollars in Medicaid funding to Louisiana, known as the "Louisiana Purchase." Americans are rightfully weary of the Majority playing political games with important policy initiatives.

I know that the high cost of healthcare is an important issue facing our nation and I am committed to making high quality, equitable and accessible healthcare affordable to all Americans. This bill is not the right answer to the serious issues facing our nation and our families.

Health Related Bills in Congress

TRICARE Continuity of Coverage for National Guard and Reserve Families Act:

The National Guard and Reserves are vital branches of our country's military. On both a domestic and international level, they serve a critical role in the defense of our nation. It is because of their importance that I have cosponsored the H.R. 270 TRICARE bill. This bill allows any member of the retired reserve who qualifies for a non-regular retirement before the age of 60 to get the benefits of a 60 year old retiree under TRICARE.

Access to Cancer Clinical Trials Act:

We all understand the importance of clinical studies in creating effective new treatments for uncured diseases such as cancer. As a cosponsor of this bill, I believe that we must ensure that those who wish to participate in clinical studies can do so without pressure from their healthcare provider. This bill can also assist those who test the treatment to accumulate accurate data that can eventually lead to a cure. We must help those in poor health to gain every advantage they can in combating their conditions.

Military Retirees Health Care Protection Act:

I believe our veterans have a right to healthcare that they can depend on. That is why I cosponsored this bill to keep healthcare prices stable for military retirees. We have an obligation to these men and women who have sacrificed so much and it is our responsibility to ensure they have affordable reliable healthcare.

Children's Access to Reconstructive Evaluation & Surgery (CARES) Act:

The purpose of the CARES bill is to increase the opportunities for children dealing with congenital or developmental deformities, diseases, or injuries to live a more fulfilling life. The bill would allow for the creation of health plans capable of servicing the needs of the children who deal with these issues. All children deserve a fair chance at living a "normal" life and for this reason, I co-sponsored the CARES bill.

Preexisting Condition Patient Protection Act:

Everyone has the right to quality medical coverage regardless of their current or past health conditions. That is why I cosponsored the Preexisting Condition Patient Protection Act, to keep group health plans from restricting or excluding people based on preexisting conditions. This way, those who need the most assistance can get it.

Children's Health Protection Act:

Young people are the future of our great nation. That is why we cannot allow healthcare companies to restrict coverage to young people with preexisting conditions. I cosponsored the Children's Health Protection Act, which would allow for young people to have coverage despite any preexisting condition. A child should always have the right to medical treatment.

Equity and Access for Podiatric Physicians under Medicaid Act:

Those who are covered by Medicaid do not always possess the means to seek outside doctors for certain conditions that are not within the specific coverage offered by Medicaid. That is why I cosponsored this bill, designed to expand Medicaid to include podiatrists. We must continue to do all that we can for those who are in need.

Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act:

Combating diseases such as breast cancer requires fortitude and determination. In this battle, a lack of coverage should be the least of one's concern. In order to make that a reality, I have cosponsored this bill designed to expand the coverage of those with breast cancer. It will require health plans to cover radiation treatments related to breast cancer, and prevent those health plans from restricting hospital stays. With this expanded coverage, the focus can stay on the fight and nothing else.

Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act:

When battling diseases such as HIV, early detection can mean the difference between life and death. That is why I cosponsored this bill, to require HIV screening during routine checkups. Early detection is proven to be advantageous when combating such a deadly disease and we need to make every effort to increase early detection.

Heart Disease Education, Analysis Research, and Treatment for Women Act:

It is simply the case that male and female bodies function differently. Because of this, we cannot simply assume medications will have the same effects on both sexes. That is why I have cosponsored this bill that requires labels on drugs to include statistics and side effects particular to women. This way we can be sure that we completely understand what the effects will be when we fill our prescriptions.

Early Treatment for HIV Act:

Certain HIV infected individuals do not have the means to provide themselves with the treatments required to fight it. In order to provide some assistance I have cosponsored the Early Treatment for HIV Act. This bill would expand Medicaid coverage to provide treatment for HIV. Not only will this bill help the individuals with Medicaid, but it can assist in combating HIV.

Autism

I have made a major effort to support legislation in the Congress to help people with autism. An important part of this is increased autism funding for research and services. Autism is a developmental disorder that is typically diagnosed during the first 3 years of life, robbing individuals of their ability to communicate and interact with others. It affects an estimated 1 in every 150 children in the United States.

I am a co-sponsor of H.R. 1106 which passed the House earlier this year. It designated April 2008 as "National Autism Awareness Month and supports efforts to devote new resources to research into the causes and treatment of autism and to improve training and support for individuals with autism. H.R. 1106 also recognizes the shortage of trained teachers to teach, assist, and respond to special needs students; as well as the importance of worker training programs tailored to the needs of developmentally disabled persons.

Another key bill in the fight against Autism which I am supporting is "Expanding the Promise for Individuals With Autism Act" ( H.R. 1881). It provides additional treatment and support resources, increasing access to effective therapies and essential support services for people with autism.

It also authorizes approximately $350 million in new federal money -- over and above all existing federal spending on autism -- for important initiatives related to treatments, interventions, and services for both children and adults with autism.

This legislation provides demonstration grants for the coverage of treatments, interventions and services ($20 million annually), as well as planning and demonstration grants for services for adults with autism ($20 million annually). It also establishes grants for the expansion of immediate post-diagnosis care ($10 million in Fiscal Year 2009, growing to $20 million by Fiscal Year 2012).

I am also co-sponsoring the TEACH Act, H.R. 2390, which will help increase the number of autism teachers by providing a refundable tax credit for education and training expenses.

The Global Autism Assistance Act of 2008, H.R. 5446 is another key bill I am supporting. It sets up a USAID health and education grant program and establishes a "teach the teachers" program to train health and education professionals working with autistic children in developing countries.
Alzheimer's Services

I cosponsored HR 1032 - Alzheimer's Treatment and Caregiver Support Act to make grants to public and nonprofit private health care providers to expand treatment services for patients with Alzheimer's disease and training and support services for families and caregivers of such patients.
Fighting Cancer

I have cosponsored legislation to combat cancer which is one of the leading causes of death in our nation. Legislation I have backed on this vital issue includes:

* HR 715 -- the Annie Fox Act to expand, intensify, and coordinate activities regarding breast cancer in younger women, including the conduct and support of basic and clinical research on the causes, prevention, detection, treatment, and long-term effects of breast cancer in young women.

* HR 758 - Breast Cancer Patient Protect Action. This bill would require a group health plan to ensure that inpatient coverage and radiation therapy are provided for breast cancer treatment.

* HR 1064 - Breast Cancer Research Stamp Reauthorization Act. This bill extends provisions requiring the U.S. Postal Service to issue a special postage stamp for first-class mail to contribute funding for breast cancer research.

* HR 1157 - Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act. This bill makes available grants to public or nonprofit private entities for the development and operation of centers to conduct multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research on environmental factors that may be related to the etiology of breast cancer.

* HR 1190 - Community Cancer Care Preservation Act. A bill that would improve cancer care coverage under Medicare and restore appropriate payment for the hours of cancer drug administration.

* HR 1738 - The Colorectal Cancer Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment Act. This bill will establish a program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide screenings and treatment for colorectal cancer and targets screening services toward individuals between 50 to 64 years of age or those under 50 years old but with high risk of such cancer.

Improving Children's Health Care

I have a longstanding record of promoting children's issues across our nation. I fully support the SCHIP program in providing better health care for our children, which is why I supported S. 2009, the SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 which passed the Congress last December. This legislation reauthorized and extended SCHIP through March 2009 in order to provide Congress the necessary time to work in a bi-partisan manner to craft a bill that will provide benefits to those who really need help--low-income, uninsured children.

I also cosponsored HR 2073 - Child Health Care Crisis Relief Act. This legislation establishes programs related to mental health services for children and adolescents including paying educational loans in exchange for providing mental health services to children and adolescents and to award scholarships to students who agree to work as child and adolescent mental health service professionals after graduation or completion of residence.
Expanding Health Centers

I am a cosponsor of HR 1343 -- the Health Centers Renewal Act. This bill calls for reauthorization of the health centers program for five years. It will authorize Federal dollars for health centers to meet the health care needs of medically underserved populations.
Battle Against Heart Disease

I co-sponsored HR 1014 -- the Heart Disease Education, Analysis Research, and Treatment for Women Act. The legislation authorizes grants to educate healthcare professionals about the prevalence and unique aspects of care for women in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. It would also require that healthcare data that is already being reported to the federal government be stratified by sex, as well as by race and ethnicity. Finally, it will improve screening for low-income women at risk for heart disease and stroke.
Fighting HIV-AIDS

South Florida has one of the highest rates of AIDS cases in the state. Roughly 19 percent of the state total for those living with HIV infection reside in my District. So I am all too familiar with the human costs of this disease and hope for the day when its ravages are safely confined to the past. I have worked for funding to cure this malady both at home here in the U.S. as well as in the fight against HIV-AIDS in other nations.

I co-sponsored HR 3326 - Early Treatment For HIV Act. The bill will give states the option of providing Medicaid coverage for certain low-income HIV-infected individuals. According to the current Medicaid system, an HIV patient is only covered if they are disabled by AIDS. The bill would provide access to early detection and treatment before the patient becomes disabled.

I have also worked hard for HIV-AIDS prevention funding under the Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. Since the passage of the original Leadership Act, extensive emergency treatment and prevention programs have begun to slow the advance of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. This bill has supported HIV testing and counseling for 30 million people, and cared for nearly 6.7 million, including almost 3 million orphans and vulnerable children. It has also supplied medicine for approximately 800,000 expectant mothers, preventing an estimated 157,000 infant HIV infections.
Improving Mental Health

I cosponsored HR 687 - Keeping Families Together Act to award competitive matching grants to states to establish systems of care to provide mental health treatment and services to all children who are in the custody of the state or at-risk of entering into the custody of the state for the purpose of receiving mental health services.

I am also a cosponsor of HR 1424 - Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act. The bill explicitly disallows separate cost-sharing arrangements, such as deductible, which add increased out-of-pocket cost to mental health and addiction care, and it requires plans that have an out-of-network option to offer it also for mental health and addiction care.
Vision Care

As a co-chair and founding member of the Congressional Vision Caucus, I have worked tirelessly to support better access to vision care for our families.

I supported HR 577, Vision Care for Kids Act, which was adopted in the House of Representatives, to award grants to states to provide comprehensive eye examinations by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist for children and provide treatment or services to correct vision problems of children.


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