Single Payer Health Insurance
I am a proud co-sponsor of H.R. 676, the United States Health Insurance Act, to provide basic health care to all Americans by establishing a national single-payer health care system. I strongly believe that our country needs a single-payer health care system because it is only plan that can cut costs, provide universal coverage, and streamlines the inefficiencies of the current health care system.
I believe that it is unconscionable in a country as wealthy as America that 46 million of our citizens are uninsured including nine million children. There are nearly 475,000 uninsured Minnesotans and 104,000 uninsured Minnesota children. All of our citizens deserve to live healthy, productive lives, and universal health care would go a long way toward making this goal a reality.
I believe universal health care coverage is a major civil rights issue of our time. The need for safe, affordable health care is an issue that affects us all. Nearly everyone knows someone negatively impacted by the current health care system, and the problems cross ethnic, geographic, and gender lines.
In late 2007, I invited Representative John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan, the chief House sponsor of H.R. 676, to a town hall meeting in Minnesota to promote universal health care.
Mental Health Parity
I voted for and am a proud co-sponsor of the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 (H.R. 1424). This important piece of legislation will amend the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 to eliminate discriminatory provisions that create obstacles to accessing care for Americans with mental health and addiction disorders. H.R. 1424 improves the 1996 Act by requiring private insurance providers to treat mental health and substance abuse illnesses comparable to coverage for other physical ailments.
On March 5, 2008, H.R. 1424 passed the House, 268-148. The Senate also passed its version of the same bill but without key provisions contained in the House bill. It is imperative that the Senate adopt the House bill which requires parity in out-of-network benefits, whereas the Senate bill does not. Out-of-network care is important where plans cover a limited number of providers and there are long waiting lists to access the care. The House bill also requires coverage for all clinically significant disorders if the insurer chooses to provide coverage for mental illness. The Senate bill lets health plans pick and choose which diseases they will cover. For example, insurers could deny care for such common ailments as autism, eating disorders, and alcoholism.
This legislation is aptly named after the late Senator Paul Wellstone as commemoration for his tireless efforts to ensure mental health parity. Senator Wellstone knew it was wrong for health insurers to place discriminatory restrictions on treatments and I am honored to be a part of this effort to finally guarantee that the millions of Americans who need mental health and addiction services can obtain the treatment they deserve.
March 5, 2008 Floor Speech - Congressman Ellison talks about the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Parity bill
State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP)
I proudly in favor of H.R. 976, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007. H.R. 976 is a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The bill increases funding for SCHIP by $35 billion over five years providing health coverage to approximately ten million children - preserving coverage for six million children currently covered by the program and extending coverage to four million uninsured children. These children are in working families with parents who either cannot afford insurance or hold jobs that lack health insurance. Next year alone, this SCHIP legislation will provide Minnesota with $50 million of additional federal funds to insure 30,000 more children in our state.
After passing both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support, the President vetoed the revised SCHIP bill (H.R. 3963) on December 12, 2007. On January 23, 2008 the House attempted but failed to override President Bush's veto. You may be pleased to know that I voted to override the President's veto.
On December 19, 2007, I reluctantly voted for and the House and Senate passed S. 2499, the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007, which simply extends the SCHIP program without any changes through March 31, 2009. Though I am disappointed we were not able to make any headway in reducing the number of uninsured children because of Republican obstructionism, please know that I will continue to fight in 2008 to push comprehensive legislation to cover more children with health insurance.