BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I rise to speak about health insurance reform. I wanted to remind all of us that last month we successfully passed health insurance reform, upon which I think we will have a very strong foundation to build, improve, and strengthen access to health care all across America.
Throughout the long and critically important debate on how best to fix our system, I came to the floor on many occasions, as did the Presiding Officer and a lot of my freshman Senators, to discuss the need for reform. I believe the bill that President Obama signed into law will help struggling Colorado families and hopefully our struggling economy as well.
So I think you and I agree there is a lot of work left to be done, and no bill of this magnitude and importance is perfect. To implement this new law is a major undertaking that will require us in the Congress to revisit and improve upon what we have already done.
In that spirit, I come to the Senate floor to introduce a bill that I believe is a great way to start making those improvements. I thank Senators Begich and McCaskill for working with me to develop a bill, and Senator Mikulski for her hard work and energy and support as well.
Our legislation is entitled ``The TRICARE Dependent Coverage Extension Act.'' It would help fulfill this important goal of the health insurance reform that the Presiding Officer and I support; that is, giving young adults the opportunity to remain on their parents' health care plan until the age of 26.
Young adults across our country are struggling to enter the job market as we get our economy back on track, and this legislation will ensure that the families of our military servicemembers are not left behind when this benefit goes into effect later this year for millions of civilian families and their children.
Currently, the TRICARE Program, which provides health insurance for military servicemembers, retirees, and their families, covers children up to the age of 21, or in some cases up to the age of 23 if they are full-time college students.
The TRICARE Dependent Coverage Extension Act will give young adults of these military families who have not been able to find health care insurance through an employer the opportunity to pay a reasonable premium and remain covered until their 26th birthday on their parents' plan.
Health reform, I think we agree, is meant to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care coverage. I cannot think of any of our countrymen more deserving of the peace of mind envisioned by this new law than members of our Armed Forces and their families.
They, in countries all over the world, make tremendous sacrifices every day for our Nation. I think it is over 60 different countries that we have servicemembers serving around the world. They deserve benefits that will keep them healthy and secure.
In addition to the three Senators I mentioned, Begich, McCaskill, and Mikulski, there are 19 of our Democratic colleagues who have also joined in supporting this legislation. I think this outpouring of support on short notice is indicative of how beneficial the bill will be for the families of our armed servicemembers.
Now, we have had our disagreements with the other side of the aisle on how best to reform our health care system as a whole. But I think there are certain areas of common interest we can still find and come together on to improve the lives of the people we are here to serve. I think this is one of those instances, and I want to offer my hand to our Republican friends and hope they will join a group of us in cosponsoring this important piece of legislation.
I sit on the Armed Services Committee in the Senate, and I served on the Armed Services Committee in the House. I would like to think I learned how to spot a good deal for our Nation's soldiers and their families, and this is a good deal.
Again, I would encourage all 100 Senators to consider joining us in this important, straightforward, cost-efficient idea that I am presenting today.