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Public Statements

Affordable Health Care For America Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, D.C.


Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Speaker, no one believes the loyal opposition that Democrats don't care about seniors. Need I provide a history lesson 101 here?

Today is when we must ask ourselves the real reason we came to Congress. Was it to fulfill the hopes of the people, or to take the path of least resistance? The easy thing would be to say the problem is too big, the interests are too aligned, and then maintain the status quo. The hard thing is to bring everybody together, make the compromises that need to be made, and give the American people true health care reform that will carry our country through for generations.

This is the same choice that was laid before the Members of the 89th Congress when they voted on the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. And where would we be today as a nation had those Members simply succumbed to the difficulty of making real change? Where would we be today? Where would we be in mortality? Where would we be with the seniors who were sick and poor at that time without those two programs?

We are now 40th among the industrial nations in infant mortality. When will we wait to have our consensus? We need this reform. Let us not leave another generation to wonder what we could have been.

Let's pass historic legislation that provides the promise of affordable health care for every American today and the generations to come.


Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Speaker, I and others have spoken at length on the ways that the Affordable Health Care for America Act will improve health care for all of our constituents. Another significant benefit of this legislation which has not received as much attention will be the creation of new high-paying jobs in this country. Let me repeat that for some of my friends on the other side of the aisle: this bill will create high-paying, high-quality jobs in health care delivery, technology, and research in the United States.

First, H.R. 3962 will create enormous demand for health care workers, especially in the area of primary care. Expanding meaningful health insurance coverage to the millions of Americans in this country who are currently uninsured or underinsured will allow them to see the primary care providers and receive the wellness and preventive care they have been denied for too long. This influx of new patients will need the doctors, nurses, and technicians necessary to deliver the care they need--while reducing overall health care costs as we prevent more expensive emergency care and hospitalizations. I support channeling resources that for too long have been used to treat people once they become sick into jobs and services that will prevent people from getting sick in the first place.

Second, the Affordable Health Care for America Act will continue the efforts we began in the stimulus package to deploy new health information technologies that better manage both the quality of care people receive and the cost at which they receive it. New health care exchanges and new demands on the health system to provide high-quality and cost-effective care will create new opportunities and markets for our brightest minds in technology. They will be incentivized to create and develop products that will be a win-win for Americans--high quality health care at an affordable price.

Third, H.R. 3962 will create high quality research opportunities for America. The legislation under consideration establishes a framework for allowing biosimilar competition in this country. This new class of medicines will help lower costs and bring competition to an area that is a key to the future of our health care system. Biotechnology is on the cutting edge of efforts to reduce costly invasive procedures and allow our constituents to live healthier and more productive lives. The creation of this new class of medicines comes with requirements for new clinical research and testing, especially in the area of new biosimilars' interchangeability with innovator products. This research will create high quality and high paying jobs, and it is imperative that we keep this research and these jobs in this country. The Inspector General of Health and Humans Services is currently investigating the amount of data received from overseas clinical trials. We cannot allow these research opportunities to leave this country, and I intend to work with the Secretary of HHS and the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that the clinical studies to support the safety and interchangeability for this new class of follow-on biologics is conducted in the United States.

Mr. Speaker, I do not view this legislation as a cost or drain on the economy of our country like so many of its opponents on the other side of the aisle. Instead, the Affordable Health Care for America Act is an exciting opportunity to create the kinds of jobs we so desperately need in this country while improving the lives of ALL Americans. H.R. 3962 will improve health care, create jobs, and grow our economy.

Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the Affordable Health Care for America Act. I could not be prouder that H.R 3962 expands coverage to 96 percent of Americans in a fiscally responsible manner. I strongly believe that all interested parties should indeed have a stake in this necessary effort, but I would like to recognize the contribution asked of the biopharmaceutical industry.

New Jersey has often been called the Medicine Chest for the World and for good reason. Last year, the biopharmaceutical and medical technology industries employed nearly 60,000 individuals in the state of New Jersey--with another 88,000 ``spin-off' jobs through the purchase of goods and services, capital construction projects, and other industry activity.

H.R. 3962 extends Medicaid rebates to Medicare dual-eligible and low-income subsidy beneficiaries while instituting a new 50 percent discount for Part D beneficiaries who find themselves in the prescription drug benefit coverage gap--the so-called ``donut hole.'' Pharmaceutical sales represent about 10 percent of national medical expenditures, but the savings generated from these provisions represent a disproportionately larger share of the legislation's savings and revenues.

There is little doubt that these industries are sure to see increased sales both as millions of previously uninsured Americans and millions more who were underinsured are given access to meaningful health insurance that covers prescription medications and as seniors with expanded Part D coverage better adhere to the prescription regimens prescribed by their doctors. However, I have lingering concerns that a single industry may be paying more than their fair share and that this may have unfortunate consequences in New Jersey. The biopharmaceutical manufacturers in my state have estimated that as many as 12,300 jobs could be lost in New Jersey.

I believe that H.R. 3962 is an effort that will indeed create new jobs in the health care sector both as the demand for health care providers increases and as the result of a new pathway for the development of follow-on biologics, and I applaud the legislation for taking steps to close the Medicare Part D donut hole. However, we must recognize there will be consequences for New Jersey's biopharmaceutical industry, and I express my hope that these consequences will be minimized as the House and Senate come together to formulate a compromise health reform package.

Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, I would like to share my understanding of the intent of the provisions of H.R. 3962--the Affordable Health Care for America Act--regarding the coverage of the treatment continuum for persons with brain injury.

News reports of returning veterans and recent high profile brain injury stories indicate what researchers have been reporting for years: brain injury is a leading public health problem in U.S. military and civilian populations. I believe that any health care reform initiative must recognize that brain injury is not an event or an outcome but is the beginning of a lifelong disease process that impacts brain and body functions. These impacts of brain injury can result in difficulties in physical, communication, cognitive, emotional, and psychological performance, undermining health, function, community integration, and productive living. Brain injury is also disease causative and disease accelerative because it predisposes individuals to re-injury and the onset of other conditions.

The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) has developed a series of guiding principles for assessing any health care reform bill from a brain injury perspective. I believe, consistent with policy statements by the BIAA, that health care reform must address the unique health care needs of individuals with brain injury by recognizing that brain injury is the start of a lifelong disease process. As such, individuals with brain injury require access to a full continuum of medically necessary treatment--including rehabilitation furnished by accredited programs in the most appropriate treatment setting as determined in accordance with the choices and aspirations of the patient and family in concert with an interdisciplinary team of qualified and specialized clinicians.

I am pleased to conclude that the Affordable Health Care for America Act reflects and is consistent with these principles.

Principle 1: An individual with a brain injury should have an individualized medical treatment plan that documents specific diagnosis-related goals for individuals with a reasonable expectation of achieving measurable functional improvements through the provision of sufficient treatment.

Under the bill, payment for items and services included in the essential benefits package should be made in accordance with generally accepted standards of medical and other appropriate clinical or professional practice. In addition under the bill, a qualified health benefits plan may not impose any restriction (other than cost-sharing) unrelated to clinical appropriateness on the coverage of the health items and services included in the essential benefits package. Consistent with medical, clinical, and professional practice, appropriateness should be determined based on the unique needs of the individual with brain injury and treatment should be of sufficient scope, duration, and intensity.

Principle 2: An individual with brain injury should have access to the full treatment continuum to manage the disease. This continuum includes (1) early, acute treatment to stabilize the condition and (2) acute and specialized post-acute brain injury treatment and rehabilitation to minimize and/or prevent medical complication, recover function and cope with remaining physical or mental disabilities, and achieve long-term outcomes that maintain an optimal level of health, function, and independence following brain injury. These post-acute services include inpatient, outpatient, day treatment, and home health programs. I believe that for individuals with disabilities such as brain injury, rehabilitation and habilitation is equivalent to the provision of antibiotics to a person with an infection--both are essential medical interventions.

I am pleased to report that under the bill, the essential benefit package includes, among other things, hospitalization, outpatient hospital and outpatient clinic services, professional services of physicians and other health professionals, prescription drugs, mental health and substance use disorder services (including behavioral health treatments), rehabilitative and habilitative services, and durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and relates supplies. The term ``rehabilitative and habilitative services'' includes items and services used to restore functional capacity, minimize limitations on physical and cognitive functions, and maintain or prevent deterioration of functioning as a result of an illness, injury, disorder, or other health condition. Such services also include training of individuals with mental and physical disabilities to enhance functional development.

Principle 3: Individuals with brain injury should receive treatment in the most appropriate treatment setting by accredited programs--including acute care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, residential rehabilitation facilities, day treatment programs, outpatient clinics and home health agencies. The treatment and treatment setting should be determined in accordance with the choice and aspirations of the patient and family in concert with an interdisciplinary team of qualified and specialized clinicians.

I am pleased to report that under the bill payment for items and services included in the essential benefits package should be made in accordance with generally accepted standards of medical or other appropriate clinical or professional practice. The bill also requires adequacy of provider networks in order to ensure enrollee access to covered benefits, treatments, and services under a qualified health benefits plan. Rehabilitative and habilitative services should be available from a full continuum of accredited programs and treatment settings at a level of intensity that is consistent with the needs of the patient.

Principle 4: The bill should prevent private insurance systems from delaying or denying treatment as a means of transferring the burden of brain injury care to taxpayers at federal, state and local levels; ensure that both public and private health insurance systems meet the health

care needs of people with brain injury; and avoid using Medicaid and Medicare as the first option for the coverage of people with brain injury.

I am pleased to report that the bill includes numerous requirements reforming the health insurance marketplace that should prevent private insurance systems from delaying or denying treatment for individuals with brain injury. These reforms include (1) prohibiting pre-existing condition exclusions, (2) requiring guaranteed issue and renewal, (3) requiring nondiscrimination in health benefits or benefit structure, (4) requiring adequacy of provider networks, (5) limiting cost-sharing, and (6) prohibiting the imposition of annual or lifetime limits on coverage. I believe that these provisions will help prevent private insurance from delaying or denying treatment to persons with brain injury.

Finally, the bill includes provisions regarding modernized payment initiatives and delivery system reform under which the Secretary may use innovative payment mechanisms and policies to determine payment for items and services under the public health insurance option, including bundling of services. Separate provisions are included in the bill regarding post-acute care bundling under Medicare. BIAA, in a recent submission to the chairs of the Education & Labor, Ways & Means, and Energy & Commerce Committees, commented that post-acute payment systems must facilitate, not impede, improvements in functional status of individuals with brain injury and their ability to return to their homes and communities. BIAA supports a deliberative planning process and rigorous pilot testing. According to BIAA's comments, the deliberative process should determine whether post-acute care bundling should exempt diagnoses such as brain injury, that are of low predictability and highly complicated; establish certain minimum requirements for any bundling proposal such as ``any willing provider'' in the bundled payment system; and test innovative payment methods that make payments directly to non-hospital-based treatment centers, including residential rehabilitation facilities specializing in the treatment of brain injury.

I believe that the deliberative process should address each of these issues. I also believe that the adoption of alternative innovative payment mechanisms and policies must be guided by the goals included in the bill--improving health outcomes, reducing health disparities, providing efficient and affordable care, addressing geographic variation in the provision of health services, preventing or managing chronic illness, and promoting care that is integrated, patient-centered, quality, and efficient.

I remain wary of mechanisms that bundle post-acute care to acute care hospitals for patients with complex and highly unpredictable diagnosis and health outcomes, like brain injury and other catastrophic conditions. Such payment systems should not impede, rather than facilitate, improvements in functional status and should not result in premature return to homes and undue levels of preventable disability without adequate facilitation of progression through necessary step down levels of treatment.

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