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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



S. 366. A bill to amend the Social Security Act to eliminate the 5-month waiting period for Social Security disability and the 24-month waiting period for Medicare benefits in the cases of individuals with disabling burn injuries; to the Committee on Finance.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, each year an estimated 500,000 people are treated for burn injuries, with 40,000 requiring hospitalization. It is time that we do more to aid those who suffer from disabling burns, which is why I am introducing the Social Security and Medicare Improved Burn Injury Treatment Access Act of 2009. I am pleased to join my colleague from Massachusetts, Congressman RICHARD NEAL, who introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

This legislation provides a waiver of the 24-month waiting period now required before an uninsured individual becomes eligible for Medicare coverage for disabling burn injuries. It also provides a waiver for the five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits. This will help provide greater assistance to those who suffer from burn injuries and much needed support for the burn centers that treat them. Burn care is highly specialized and expensive. Since approximately 40 percent of burn victims are uninsured, this places a great financial strain on burn centers, causing some of them to close.

At a time when we are asking burn centers to be prepared to deal with catastrophic cases, and expand their capacity, we also must provide the support they need. Chemical fires, explosions, terrorist attacks, and major accidents are scenarios where burn centers play a critical role in public health. Over one-third of those hospitalized in New York following the September 11 terrorist attacks had severe burn injuries.

This legislation will provide immediate Medicare coverage for uninsured patients suffering serious, disabling burn injuries. It follows an approach already taken with other conditions such as End Stage Renal Disease, ESRD, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, both of which result in waivers of the 24-month waiting period for Medicare eligibility.

This legislation has important cost containment measures. To prevent shifting the burden of care, no one with public or private insurance at the time of their burn injury will be eligible for the 24-month waiver, and state public insurance programs will not be allowed to restrict coverage for burn patients as a way to shift the responsibility to Medicare. Each individual's disability status is required to be reevaluated at least once every three years to ensure that those who have made a full recovery are not allowed to stay on Medicare indefinitely.

We cannot allow our Nation's burn centers to continue closing due to a lack of financial resources. They are a vital resource and through them, we have the opportunity to give burn victims the best possible chance at recovery. I ask all my colleagues to support this legislation.


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