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Issue Position: Making Health Care Affordable

Issue Position

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Issue Position: Making Health Care Affordable

Senator Stabenow is leading efforts to make health care affordable for Michigan families and businesses. The skyrocketing costs of health care are costing American jobs by making American manufacturers less competitive in a global marketplace where many of their competitors aren't responsible for health care. Rising health care costs also make health care and insurance more expensive for everyone and threaten to add to the growing number of uninsured Americans. Senator Stabenow is working to make health care more affordable.

Health Information Technology: Saving Lives and Saving Dollars

Senator Stabenow has authored bipartisan legislation with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to help health care providers invest in health information technologies (health IT) to improve patient care and lower health care costs. Studies show that widespread use of health IT could save as much as $100 billion per year to the nation's health care system while improving the quality of care for patients.

Unfortunately, high start-up costs have prevented wide-spread adoption of this technology. Senator Stabenow's legislation would remove these financial obstacles by creating a $4 billion competitive grant program and tax incentives to encourage hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, community health centers and physicians to invest in health IT.

Lower Prescription Drug Prices with Unadvertised Brands

Senator Stabenow has authored the "Lower PRICED Drugs Act" with Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) to close loopholes that prevent or delay generic drugs from coming to the market. The bipartisan bill would increase the availability of generic drugs, thereby creating more competition and saving American consumers, manufacturers and taxpayers billions of dollars.

Brand name prescription drug prices continue to skyrocket. Between 1999 and 2004, brand name drug manufacturers increased their prices by 35.1 percent - over two and one-half times the rate of general inflation - for the drugs most widely used by older Americans. Of the 25 top selling drugs in 2004, the only one that did not increase in price was a drug with a generic version (unadvertised brand) available.

Ensure Every Child Has Access to Health Care

As a member of the Senate Finance and Budget Committees, Senator Stabenow is playing a key leadership role in strengthening the successful State Children's Health Insurance Program (which funds the MIChild program). Through MIChild, nearly 60,000 children and pregnant mothers now have quality health insurance. Senator Stabenow also has been a leader in giving children and mothers more healthy options in federal programs such as WIC and the school lunch program. Senator Stabenow is working to expand this program so that it covers all children in Michigan without health insurance.

Safe Drug Re-importation from Canada

Senator Stabenow is a co-author of the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act (S. 242) with Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). This breakthrough bipartisan bill would allow the re-importation of FDA-approved prescription drugs, most of which are American-made, from Canada and other approved countries.

This bill would reduce prescription drug prices by up to 70 percent by allowing pharmacists and wholesalers to re-import prescription drugs from several industrialized countries (including Canada and European Union nations like Britain and Germany) if they comply with strict FDA safety regulations. Individuals would also be allowed to import 90-day supplies for themselves or family members under strict safety regulations. An executive for one of the world's largest drug manufacturers testified that in his experience in the European Union, there were no safety concerns or problems with trading prescription drugs across member nations' borders.

Create Public/Private Partnerships to Fund Health Care

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, less than one percent of workers incur medical costs in excess of $50,000; however collectively these costs represent more than 20 percent of the average employer's overall health care costs. At the same time, roughly 70 to 80 percent of total health care costs are attributable to chronic health care conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma.

Senator Stabenow will introduce legislation again that would provide a tax credit to help manufacturers cover the cost of their highest "catastrophic" cases. Manufacturers and other businesses could apply for a refundable tax credit equal to half of their health care costs for any employee who incurs over $50,000 in health care costs. Additionally, Senator Stabenow's legislation provides tax incentives for employers to provider their employees with wellness policies to prevent and manage chronic conditions.

Senator Stabenow has also authored legislation to help small businesses afford health care for their employees through "three share" programs. These innovative, community-based models split costs between employees, employers, and communities. In a global competitive marketplace, our domestic industries are at a competitive disadvantage as other nations fund health care through their governments.

Help Michigan's Automakers Keep Their Promise to Retirees

Michigan's automakers are finding it increasingly difficult to voluntarily provide health care benefits for their retired workers because of increasing pressure in the global marketplace. For example, foreign automakers typically do not pay retiree "legacy costs," giving them a huge economic and competitive advantage over the Big 3. These costs are even greater for "early retirees," or retirees who are not Medicare eligible.

Senator Stabenow will introduce legislation for Michigan automakers who are doing the right thing— keeping their promise to their retirees — to help them remain globally competitive. This bill would give these manufacturers a tax credit to help offset high legacy health care costs so that they can continue offering retiree benefits.

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