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Mr. BROWN of Massachusetts. Mr. President, I rise today to join my colleague, Mr. Wyden, to introduce legislation that will protect Massachusetts by allowing it to waive out of specific requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
As my colleagues know, my single priority is and has always been to ensure that what we do here in Washington does not harm my State of Massachusetts, or the people of Massachusetts, and that we are responsible stewards with every tax dollar.
This has been true when it comes to voting against raising taxes on families and businesses. It has been true when it comes to fighting for commonsense, progrowth policies that will create jobs in Massachusetts. And it has been true in my efforts to be sure that the Federal health care reform bill does not diminish or harm the health care innovations that have occurred in Massachusetts.
Today we get to make a correction to the Federal health care reform bill to be sure that we are doing the right thing, not just for the State of Massachusetts but for other States who seek to waive out of certain requirements of the Federal health care reform law.
In many ways, Massachusetts has been on the forefront of implementing health care reform--expanding access, designing systems to increase market participation and choice, and increasing transparency for consumers and providers. We continue to learn lessons every day in Massachusetts about what works and doesn't work in health care reform.
And this is an important point because it speaks directly to the purpose of the 1egislation that I am introducing today with my colleague, Mr. Wyden from Oregon.
As difficult as it is for me to admit this, not every State wants to be like Massachusetts. Massachusetts is a great State, with the best hospitals, physicians, researchers and health care providers in the country and the world.
But I recognize that my colleague from Oregon is interested in protecting the reform efforts of Oregon. He doesn't want to be like Massachusetts because Oregon is different from Massachusetts. Oregon's insurance market is different, its provider network is different, its beneficiaries and population are different from Massachusetts. Oregon might want to implement reforms or create a coverage mechanism that I do not like or that would not work in a State like Massachusetts. The same is true for the other 49 States--each State is different, unique--and each State should be able to find solutions that work for their citizens and their State budgets.
Which is why the legislation that I am introducing today with Mr. Wyden--the Empowering States to Innovate Act--is so important.
Right now, as provided under section 1332--``The Waivers for State Innovation''--of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, States can waive out of provisions of the Federal reform law. That's the good news. The bad news is that this waiver authority is not scheduled to take effect until 2017, a full 3 years after PPACA is scheduled to be fully implemented.
That makes no sense, so we are going to fix it.
The first thing our bill does is to allow States to waive out of specific parts of PPACA in 2014 rather than 2017. This makes sense not just from an operational standpoint--because PPACA takes effect in 2014--but also from an economic and fiscal standpoint. Why should Massachusetts be delayed in obtaining a waiver from the Federal reform bill when it may have already met and or exceeded specific provisions of PPACA? Holding Massachusetts back--limiting my State's ability to innovate, remain flexible and responsive to the health care market-- costs money; it costs taxpayer money.
That doesn't make sense. So our legislation fixes that.
The second piece our bill does is to provide States with certainty with the waiver process. Not every State will be eligible for a waiver and not every waiver will be granted. But our bill provides some certainty for those States who apply for a waiver by requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to begin reviewing applications within 6 months of enactment of this bill. The earlier a State knows whether it has received a waiver, the earlier it can begin implementing its specific plans and proposals.
Taken together, these two changes are good for Massachusetts. They are good for other States who are trying to innovate and advance in the areas of health care reform, cost containment, and coverage.
During Wednesday's Finance Committee hearing, Dr. Berwick, who is from the State of Massachusetts, I might add, said this about State innovation and flexibility.
And I quote:
The cliché about states as laboratories of democracy is not just a cliché, it's true. The diversity of approaches that we're seeing emerge state by state has been there for a long time. I think we should be doing everything we can to encourage it.
I couldn't agree more. I am a strong supporter of state rights and for allowing States to solve problems without the Federal Government's interference.
We should be encouraging State innovation, not hampering it.
And that is what the Empowering States to Innovate Act does--it helps ensure that States aren't held back from innovating and seeking solutions that work for their citizens, their taxpayers, their providers, and their communities.
Finally, Mr. President, I want to associate myself with Mr. Wyden's comments about how our bill fits into the Federal health care reform debate. Enacting this legislation is the right thing to do because it is good for States like Massachusetts. It is good for States like Oregon and Utah, who have begun to make changes and reforms at the State level.
The legislation provides flexibility and says that a one-size-fits-all health care system doesn't fit the needs of every State. I know a Federal standard isn't in the best interest of my State of Massachusetts, which is why passing this bill is the right thing to do.
I thank my colleague, Mr. Wyden, for his thoughtful remarks and urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this legislation that I think both parties can and should agree on.
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