With 47 million Americans uninsured and the country spending over $2.5 trillion annually on health care, meaningful health care reform was long overdue. People across the district have shared with me their concerns with our current health care system. Our economy continues to suffer as Wisconsin families fall further into debt due to rising health care costs. Comprehensive health care reform could not wait. As a member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, I was intimately involved in the health care reform debate.
Health Care Reform
The House of Representatives voted to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as well as H.R. 4872 The Reconciliation Act of 2010, on Sunday, March 21, 2010.
Passage of health care reform:
* Puts American families and small business owners--not the insurance companies-- in control of their own health care.
* Creates a Health Insurance Exchange, a marketplace for individuals and small employers to buy affordable insurance.
* Ensures that insurance companies cannot deny applicants based on health status or pre-existing conditions or drop people when they get sick or injured.
* Assists small employers with tax credits and individuals with affordability credits.
* Improves Medicare benefits with lower prescription drug costs for those in the "donut hole,' provide better chronic care, free preventive care, and help secure the future of Medicare.
* Cuts the deficit by $143 billion in the first 10 years and by $1.2 trillon by 2030.
The health care reform bill puts American families and small business owners--not the insurance companies--in control of their own health care. The bill makes health insurance affordable for individuals and small businesses through the creation of a competitive health insurance market that keeps costs down and is based on legislation I authored. Reform holds insurance companies accountable to keep premiums down and prevent coverage denials, including for pre?existing conditions. In addition, passage of reform improves Medicare benefits, lowering prescription drug costs for those in the "donut hole,' providing for better chronic care, free preventive care, and nearly a decade more of solvency for Medicare. It does all this and reduces the deficit by $143 billion over next 10 years, and by $1.2 trillion more over the following decade; reining in waste, fraud and abuse, moving towards a system that pays for the quality of care over the quantity of care.
Passage of health care reform increases access to affordable, stable coverage for the 29,500 uninsured residents in the Third Congressional District and allows the 9,000 individuals in western Wisconsin with pre-existing conditions to get the coverage they are currently denied. Reform improves Medicare for 111,000 beneficiaries in the district. Health care reform also transforms our health care system into one that delivers higher quality care at a lower cost, eliminating waste in the system and increasing the quality of care for all Americans.
Health care reform offers stability and security to families who are satisfied with their health insurance and provides choices for those who aren't. It provides increased access to stable care that is affordable for individuals, families, and businesses and ensures we reward the providers who are delivering the highest quality of care. Reform ensures the sustainability of our health care system and guarantees we do not leave a legacy of debt to our children.
Value Over Volume
Part of the health care reform bill included provisions from legislation I authored, the Medicare Payment Improvement Act of 2009. The provisions move the Medicare system from one that pays for the quantity of services provided to one that is quality-based and addresses the long-term sustainability of the program. Currently, Medicare reimbursements are based on the number of procedures performed. This often results in unnecessary or repeated medical services and billions of dollars in waste. The long term sustainability of our health care system depends on us changing this flawed structure. Including these provisions in the larger health care reform bill creates incentives for physicians and hospitals to work together to improve patient care and to use resources efficiently.
Affordable Coverage for Small Businesses and Family Farmers
The health care reform bill also included a national exchange, which was modeled after legilstaion I authored call the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Act, H.R. 2360. The exchange makes health insurance more affordable and accessible for small businesses by allowing businesses to enter into a larger pool to find coverage and offering tax to make that coverage more affordable.
State Children's Health Insurance Program
A highly effective program that has greatly reduced the number of uninsured children in the country is the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which funds BadgerCare in Wisconsin. The SCHIP Reauthorization Act of 2009, H.R. 2, provides a $32.8 billion increase in funding for SCHIP, including $18.9 million a year to expand BadgerCare coverage to kids who qualify but are not currently enrolled. I was a proud supporter of this legislation and was happy that it was signed into law on February 4, 2009.
At a time when we should be focusing on creating jobs and growing the economy, this repeal effort is a waste of time and irresponsibly increases the deficit by $230 billion. With the possibility of increased out-of-pocket costs, higher prescription drug prices, and lost coverage, western Wisconsin can't afford repeal either.
If the repeal passes the Senate and is signed into law, critical consumer protections enacted under the Affordable Care Act would be lost. Big insurance companies will again be able to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, cancel coverage when people get sick, raise prescription drug costs, and limit the care people can receive. In western Wisconsin alone,
* 2,100 young adults would lose insurance coverage through their parent's health plans
* 110,000 seniors covered under Medicare would be denied preventive care benefits
* 8,800 seniors on Medicare would see significantly higher prescription drug costs, fall back into the Medicare Part D Donut Hole, and be denied a 50% discount on prescription drugs this year
* 15,700 small businesses and 182,000 families would lose health care tax credits
* Health care providers would not be rewarded for high quality, low cost care; there would be increased waste in the system and the cost of care would continue to rise
We cannot afford to repeal health care reform. Watch the speech I made on January 19, 2011 on the floor House of Representatives defending patient's rights and the Affordable Care Act.