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Kennedy Fights The Republican Health Plan That will Raise Premiums And Take Away Health Benefits That All Americans Deserve

Location: Washington, DC



Washington, DC: Today, as the Republican health bill reaches the Senate floor, Senator Kennedy led the fight to oppose it because it would raise the premiums and lower the benefits for millions of Americans who already have health coverage today. Although the bill has been presented as legislation for small businesses, the effects of this bill go far beyond the "small business plans" and would sweep away important protections for patients in every state-regulated insurance market. Senator Kennedy opposes the plan and his colleagues have offered an alternative bill to give small business real help and assistance to provide meaningful health coverage. "The bill the Senate considers today undermines our progress on healthcare," Senator Kennedy said. "Its supporters say that the legislation is about helping small business. But the legislation the Senate considers today isn't an advance -- it's a retreat. It's a retreat from our commitment to cancer. It's a retreat from our commitment to diabetes. It's a retreat from our commitment to mental health parity. We're here today to say that quality, affordable health care should be the right of each and every American." Kennedy joined a rally of leading health advocacy groups who are working to defeat the bill because it is a major step backwards in the effort to provide better healthcare in this country. In addition to the advocates, forty-one attorney generals and eighteen Insurance Commissioners oppose the bill. Democrats have offered a comprehensive alternative S.1955. The Small Employers Health Benefits Plan (S.2510) would allow small businesses with up to 100 employees to band together for lower health care prices by pooling their purchasing power and spreading their risk over a large number of participants. Attached is Senator Kennedy's remarks from the press conference, a letter of opposition signed by 224 advocacy groups, and a summary of the bill.


We're here today to say that quality, affordable health care should be the birthright of each and every American.

And we're going to fight for that right this week in the United States Senate.

It's high time for the big insurance companies and drug companies and the special interests to get out of the way. It's time at long last for every American to have access to the best care, best treatment, and best cures that medicine has to offer.

Isn't that what we're for?

Isn't that what we're all about?

But the bill the Senate considers today undermines our progress.

Its supporters say that the legislation is about helping small business. But the legislation the Senate considers today isn't an advance -- it's a retreat.

It's a retreat from our commitment to cancer.

It's a retreat from our commitment to diabetes.

It's a retreat from our commitment to mental health parity.

Let me ask you this. Are you going to let the Senate retreat from quality health care? You can do better than that. Let them hear you loud and clear all the way down on K Street. Tell them to take their hands off your health care. Now, let me ask you again. Are you going to let the Senate take away your rights? That's right. We are not going to retreat. And let me ask our Republican friends this question.

If this is health week, then when's the vote on stem cell research?

If this is health week, then when's the vote on fixing the Medicare drug program?

If this is health week, then when's the vote on drug importation?

If this is health week, then when's the vote at long last to make health coverage the right of every man, woman, and child in America?

We know we can do it. We know that America can come together to get the job done.

So let's roll up our sleeves for progress this week -- for your health care, for your family's health care, for the nation's health care.

## May 8, 2006

Dear Senator:

The undersigned organizations are writing in opposition to the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act, S. 1955. This controversial legislation would preempt state insurance laws, not just in the small group market (as is done by Association Health Plan legislation), but also in the individual and large group markets. S. 1955 would eliminate all the progress states have made to ensure that consumers have adequate health coverage.

S. 1955 would take away the states' power to regulate health insurance. The bill preempts benefit, service and provider laws that states have enacted to ensure that consumers have adequate health coverage. Coverage for cancer screenings and treatment, diabetes supplies and education, mental health, preventive care, rehabilitation, well-child care and immunizations, maternity care, and other important health care needs would be lost. S. 1955 also exempts Small Business Health Plans (SBHPs, also known as AHPs) from state benefit, service and provider access laws.

Insurance companies, instead of state-elected legislators, would now decide the benefits that consumers should have when they purchase health care. States would have no recourse to protect their own residents and they would lose any incentive to enact protective health insurance laws in the future and be laboratories for healthcare innovation.

An insurer would only need to meet one requirement in order to bypass a state's protections: offer a second plan that resembles a plan offered to state employees in one of the five most populous states. There are no limits on the cost-sharing an insurer can charge, nor is there a requirement that the plan be comprehensive. In fact, an insurer could choose a high deductible/HSA plan, an option now available to employees in at least one of the five most populous states. Again, a state has no recourse if this so-called enhanced option does not meet the needs of its residents.

S. 1955 also would preempt stronger state laws that limit the ability of insurers to vary premiums based on health status, age, gender and geography. For many older, sicker Americans and those with complex health needs and disabilities, this would price them out of the health insurance market, undermining the stated purpose of the legislation. The bill imposes on all the states an outdated model law created by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), rather than using the NAIC's current model standard that is more protective.

While the sponsors of S. 1955 have attempted to address the shortcomings of the AHP legislation, their solution makes things worse by endangering the quality of health care for the 68 million Americans in state-regulated group health plans and 16.5 million Americans with individual coverage. A bill that preempts over 1,000 state laws, raises premiums for those who need coverage the most, and leaves people uninsured for certain diseases, basic preventive care and events such as pregnancy, should be rejected.

We urge your opposition to this legislation.


National Partnership for Women & Families 9 to 5 Association for Working Women Action Alliance of Senior Citizens of Greater Philadelphia Alabama Psychological Association Alliance for Advancing Nonprofit Health Care Alliance for Justice Alliance for the Status of Missouri Women American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry American Academy of HIV Medicine American Academy of Pediatrics American Academy of Pediatrics -- Nebraska Chapter American Academy of Physician Assistants American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy American Association of People with Disabilities American Association on Mental Retardation American Chiropractic Association American College of Nurse-Midwives American Counseling Association American Diabetes Association American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees American Federation of Teachers American Foundation for the Blind American Nurses Association American Occupational Therapy Association American Optometric Association American Pediatric Society American Podiatric Medical Association American Psychiatric Association American Psychological Association American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Arizona Action Network Arizona Business and Professional Women Arizona Psychological Association Asociacion de Psicologia de Puerto Rico Assistive Technology Law Center Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs Association of University Centers on Disabilities Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses B'nai B'rith International Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition California Coalition for PKU and Allied Disorders California Black Health Network California Psychological Association Campaign for Better Health Care - Illinois Capital District Physician's Health Plan, Inc. Catholics for a Free Choice Center for Civil Justice Center for Justice and Democracy Center for Women Policy Studies Children's Alliance Citizen Action/Illinois Citizen Action of New York Clinical Social Work Guild 49, OPEIU Coalition on Human Needs Colorado Center on Law and Policy Colorado Children's Campaign Colorado Progressive Action Colorado Psychological Association Committee of Ten Thousand Communications Workers of America Connecticut Citizen Action Group Consumers for Affordable Health Care Delaware Alliance for Health Care Delaware Psychological Association Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO Disability Rights Wisconsin District of Columbia Psychological Association Easter Seals Empire Justice Center Epilepsy Foundation Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield Families USA Families with PKU Family Planning Advocates of New York State Florida Consumer Action Network Georgia Rural Urban Summit Guttmacher Institute HIP Health Plan of New York Hawaii Psychological Association Health and Disability Advocates Hemophilia Federation of America Idaho Psychological Association Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans Illinois Psychological Association Indiana Psychological Association Institute for Reproductive Health Access International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International Longshore & Warehouse Union Iowa Citizen Action Network Iowa Psychological Association Kansas Psychological Association Kentucky Task Force on Hunger League of Women Voters Maine Children's Alliance Maine Dirigo Alliance Maine People's Alliance Maine Psychological Association Maine Women's Lobby Massachusetts Psychological Association Maternal and Child Health Access Mental Health Association in Michigan Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (Commonwealth of Massachusetts) Michigan Association for Children with Emotional Disorders Michigan Campaign for Quality Care Michigan Citizen Action Minnesota COACT Minnesota Psychological Association Missouri Association of Social Welfare Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition Montana Psychological Association Montana Senior Citizens Association, Inc. NAADAC -- The Association for Addiction Professionals NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby National Alliance on Mental Illness National Association for Children's Behavioral Health National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders National Association of Social Workers National Association of Social Workers, Arizona Chapter National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship National Consumers League National Council for Community Behavioral Health Care National Council of Jewish Women National Council on Independent Living National Disability Rights Network National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association National Health Care for the Homeless Council National Health Law Program National Hemophilia Foundation National Mental Health Association National Multiple Sclerosis Society National Organization for Women National Rehabilitation Association National Research Center for Women & Families National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation National Women's Health Network National Women's Law Center Nebraska Psychological Association Nevada State Psychological Association New Hampshire Citizens Alliance New Jersey Citizen Action New Jersey Psychological Association New Mexico PACE New Mexico Psychological Association New York Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Rights Project New York State Health Care Campaign New York State Psychological Association North Carolina Justice Center's Health Access Coalition North Carolina Psychological Association North Dakota PKU Organization North Dakota Progressive Coalition North Dakota Psychological Association Northwest Health Law Advocates Northwest Women's Law Center Ohio Psychological Association Oklahoma Psychological Association Oregon Action Oregon Advocacy Center Oregon Psychological Association Organic Acidemia Association Patient Services, Inc. Pediatrix Medical Group Pennsylvania Council of Churches Pennsylvania Psychological Association Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth Philadelphia Coalition of Labor Union Women Planned Parenthood Federation of America Planned Parenthood of New York City Population Connection Progressive Maryland Public Citizen RESULTS Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice Reproductive Health Technologies Project Rhode Island Ocean State Action Rhode Island Psychological Association Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law Save Babies Through Screening Foundation Senior Citizens' Law Office Small Business Majority Society for Pediatric Research South Dakota Psychological Association Suicide Prevention Action Network USA Summit Health Institute for Research and Education, Inc. Tennessee Citizen Action Tennessee Psychological Association Texas Psychological Association The Arc of the United States The Black Children's Institute of Tennessee The Disability Coalition of New Mexico The Institute for Reproductive Health Access The Senior Citizens' Law Office The Virginia Academy of Clinical Psychologists Triumph Treatment Services USAction USAction Education Fund U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Union for Reform Judaism United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices in the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry United Cerebral Palsy United Food and Commercial Workers United Senior Action of Indiana United Steelworkers International Union United Vision for Idaho Univera Healthcare Universal Health Care Action Network Utah Health Policy Project Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights Vermont Office of Health Care Ombudsman Voices for America's Children Voices for Virginia's Children Washington Citizen Action Washington State Coalition on Women's Substance Abuse Issues Washington State Psychological Association West Virginia Citizen Action Group West Virginia Psychological Association Wisconsin Citizen Action Wisconsin Psychological Association Women of Reform Judaism World Institute on Disability Wyoming Psychological Association


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