As is often the case, when it comes to health care, Massachusetts has led the nation.
Massachusetts passed landmark health care reforms in April 2006 and the results have been phenomenal. Since the reforms began taking effect, more than 400,000 of our citizens have obtained quality, affordable health care insurance coverage. As a result, Massachusetts has the lowest rate of uninsured residents in the nation -- 2.7 percent.
In addition to being a national leader on health insurance coverage, Massachusetts is a global leader in life sciences due to our outstanding hospitals and teaching hospitals, academic institutions, and our industry-sector leading pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic, and biotechnology companies. The innovations and advances fostered in Massachusetts have benefited individuals across the globe.
I believe all Americans should have the same access to quality, affordable health care that we have made a reality in Massachusetts. In the wealthiest nation in the world, it is inconceivable that anyone could lack access to health care. Yet there are over 46 million Americans--15 percent of our population--who are uninsured. Shamefully, the U.S. is the only developed country without health coverage for all of its citizens. Our nation spends nearly 50 percent more per person on health care than any other country and all that spending isn't making us any healthier. In fact, we have shorter life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates than most other developed countries. We need to reform our system to change this.
As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I have been working to deliver comprehensive health reform to all Americans by improving access to high quality health insurance. Reforming something as large as our health insurance industry takes care, and I've worked hard to make sure that we do it right. Some key points:
* Protect small businesses. I have been a long-time supporter of a tax credit to help small businesses with the cost of providing quality health insurance coverage to their employees. I also introduced the Healthy Businesses, Healthy Workers Reinsurance Act to lower health care costs and stabilize insurance markets for individuals with catastrophic medical expenses.
* End discriminatory practices by the insurance industry: Every American has the right to high quality and affordable health care, regardless of age, income or health status, and no group should be unfairly discriminated against. That is why I recently introduced the Women's Health Insurance Fairness Act to prevent insurers from charging women higher premiums than men for health insurance policies
* Strengthen Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program: These successful programs ensure the most vulnerable members of our society--those with low-incomes, senior citizens, and children--have access to health care. I have been working to strengthen these programs by improving access to home and community based services in Medicaid and filling in the Medicare Part D doughnut hole which leaves too many seniors unable to afford vital medications.
Even before the work on the comprehensive health care reform, I believed we had an imperative to improve health insurance coverage to children. To accomplish this, I introduced the Kids Come First Act, a bill that would guarantee health coverage to the currently millions uninsured children in America. I also supported improvements to the Children's Health Insurance Program, which became law in February 2009. This new public law will strengthen and expand health coverage to an additional four million children, nearly halving the number of uninsured children over the next five years. This new law included legislation that I wrote, the Children's Mental Health Parity Act, which will ensure that children served by this program will also have access to critical mental health services.
I am working to improve the delivery of health care through the use of electronic prescribing and health information technology. Electronic prescribing not only saves money through improved efficiency, but more importantly, it reduces medical errors and saves lives. The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act that was enacted into law in July 2008, included provisions from my electronic prescribing legislation. This law creates incentives for physicians to implement electronic prescribing within their offices. I recently introduced the Small Business Health Information Technology Financing Act of 2009 to amend the Small Business Act to authorize loan guarantees for health information technology.
Affordable health care should be a right, not a privilege, and I will continue to fight in the Senate for health care for all.