Rep. Nita Lowey is determined to provide every American with quality, affordable health care. She is a strong supporter of a universal health care system -- the ideal solution. Under Congress' piecemeal approach, she has aggressively worked to bring down the costs of prescription drugs, helped to make insurance more portable for individuals changing jobs, and supported the creation of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Rep. Lowey also authored legislation to extend coverage under the children's health program to pregnant women and is a cosponsor of a package of bills that would provide health insurance to well over half of the nearly 47 million uninsured Americans by expanding Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP.
Patients' Bill of Rights
Rep. Lowey supports enacting a Patient's Bill of Rights that would ban gag clauses, establish a sensible outside appeals process, allow lawsuits against HMOs when patients are harmed by their plan's restrictions and ensure that patients and doctors -- not bureaucrats -- make medical decisions. These protections are common sense, basic rights that all Americans deserve.
High Cost of Prescription Drugs
Rep. Lowey believes we must bring down the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs for all Americans. In addition to voting to allow for the re-importation of safe prescription drugs from other countries, Lowey supports bringing generic drugs to the market in a more timely and cost-effective way. She has also cosponsored legislation that would implement additional safeguards so the pharmaceutical industry cannot thwart competition in the drug market.
Protecting Access to Specialty Care
Rep. Lowey led the charge in fighting against a damaging policy instituted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid known as the "75% Rule." This misguided policy would have resulted in the denial of critical rehabilitation care for thousands of individuals, particularly seniors. A provision based on legislation Rep. Lowey sponsored to permanently freeze the Rule was signed into law as part of the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act.
Helping Seniors Afford Prescription Drugs
To lower the cost of prescription drugs and improve access to medications, Rep. Lowey has voted to make common-sense changes to the Medicare Part D law, including allowing the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices and eliminating the late enrollment penalty to give beneficiaries more time to learn about the drug benefit. The states, private companies, and large pharmacy chains are allowed to use their bargaining power to obtain lower drug prices for the patients the beneficiaries they represent. The Federal government should have the same ability for Medicare beneficiaries.
Rep. Lowey is also working to ensure that seniors do not fall victim to overzealous or unscrupulous marketing tactics by prescription drug plans. She introduced legislation to create stricter penalties for Medicare prescription drug plans that violate CMS marketing guidelines, require public notification of drug plans that violate those guidelines, and call for a Government Accountability Office study on marketing practices. Despite her opposition to the Medicare Part D law in its current form, Rep. Lowey believes that seniors should be armed with all the information they need to make the best decision about whether to join and - if so - which plan best meets their needs.
Rep. Lowey has been particularly troubled to learn that so many seniors have been impacted by the gap in coverage, or the "doughnut hole," in which beneficiaries are responsible for 100% of total drug costs between $2,510 and $5,726 in 2008. Millions of seniors are expected to be affected by this gap in coverage. She called on the federal government to require plans to notify beneficiaries when they get close to reaching the "doughnut hole," to inform beneficiaries of ways to avoid experiencing gaps in coverage, and to immediately clarify the actual numbers associated with the coverage gap.
Funding for Biomedical Research to Cure, Detect, and Prevent Disease
As a Member of the health appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Lowey was instrumental in the doubling of the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) between 1998 and 2003. Unfortunately, since then, funding for biomedical research has not kept pace with inflation. The loss of purchasing power at the NIH is resulting in fewer research studies and grants provided to hospitals, universities and research institutions that conduct groundbreaking medical research around the country. Rep. Lowey believes the federal government must make a firm commitment to preventing and treating illnesses and to improving the quality of care for those suffering from debilitating diseases.
Improving Access to Health Care for the Disabled
Congresswoman Lowey believes that an important measure of any health system is how it cares for its most vulnerable patients. Unfortunately, a 2006 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than 37% of individuals with disabilities, both physical and intellectual, have fair to poor health compared to 8.2% of individuals without disabilities. In order to eliminate the barriers faced by people with disabilities when accessing health care services, Congresswoman Lowey has introduced legislation that would establish accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment for people with disabilities, create a national wellness grant program that focuses on the unique challenges faced by the disabled, and improve the competency and clinical skills of physicians and dentists in providing care to patients with disabilities.
Health Information Technology
Rep. Lowey supports balancing individual privacy protections with the use of innovative technologies that will modernize our healthcare system, reduce medical errors, and allow doctors to better track treatments, medications, and lab tests. She voted for legislation to develop national guidelines and quality assurance measures for health information technology. She has also supported legislation that would grant patients the right to a clear explanation of who will have access to their personal health information before it is disclosed, the right to limit disclosure only to individuals involved with their health care, and the right to view and supplement their medical records.
Protecting Seniors from Unfair Medicare Premium Increases
In 2007, the federal government's share of Medicare Part B premiums was reduced for beneficiaries with an annual income over $80,000. Within 3 years, some seniors could be paying as much as $327 per month for Part B. That is why Rep. Lowey introduced the Medicare Part B Premium Fairness Act, which would eliminate means testing altogether. Coming up with solutions to ensure Medicare's financial stability requires bipartisan and thoughtful debate in Congress. Placing greater financial burdens on millions of seniors is simply not the answer.
Fairly Reimbursing Physicians
Unfortunately, the current Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for reimbursing physicians has generated negative updates every year since 2001. Rep. Lowey believes that the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that physicians are able to provide necessary health services to Medicare recipients. That is why she has cosponsored legislation that would block future projected cuts and replace the current SGR with updates based on inflation in physicians' practice costs rather than the gross domestic product. She also voted for the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act, which would provide a 0.5% increase for physician payment rates for 2008.
Rep. Lowey believes we must improve access to and quality of long-term care and provide assistance to families nursing a relative or friend. She supports legislation to provide an above-the-line tax deduction for long-term care premiums and tax relief for those with long-term care needs. Lowey also authored the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, which would ensure that the millions of Americans who take time off from work to care for a loved one continue to earn Social Security benefits.
Curbing Child Abuse
Tragically, one of the most common forms of child abuse, abusive head trauma including Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), is also the most deadly for abused children. Congresswoman Lowey has introduced legislation that would establish a national public health campaign to educate Americans about the dangers of shaking, as well as provide healthy preventive strategies for caregivers to cope with a crying or fussy infant. The bill would also require a National Action Plan to identify effective, evidence-based strategies for prevention and awareness of SBS and a 24-hour hotline and website to provide support for families affected by SBS or struggling with crying infants.