Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) participated in the Finance Committee hearing "Health Reform: Lessons Learned During the First Year."
A copy of Sen. Carper's remarks, as prepared for delivery, follows:
"I welcome today's hearing on the lessons learned from the first year of implementing of our comprehensive health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, and specifically on the new law's programs to improve our health care system for all Americans, especially seniors.
"Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, I have traveled across the First State talking to my constituents about our new health care reform law. From Dover, to Wilmington, to Rehoboth, I often heard the same questions and concerns, particularly from seniors who fear that the new law will reduce their Medicare benefits.
"I hope this hearing will help to correct some of the myths about the law and highlight the increased benefits that Americans are already experiencing as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Many Delawareans, and most Americans, are unaware of many of the law's benefits that have already gone into effect.
"In particular, the Affordable Care Act contains many provisions that make health insurance more accessible, more affordable, and more dependable. For example, small businesses can receive tax credits that represent up to 35 percent of the cost of providing insurance coverage to their employers. The tax credit provides $40 billion for small companies over the next 10 years. In addition, young adults will be able to stay on their parents' insurance plans until their 26th birthday. New health insurance plans are also banned from placing lifetime limits on the amount of health insurance, so over 500,000 Delawareans and all Americans can rest assured that they will have health insurance coverage when they need it the most.
"Seniors are also experiencing significant new benefits in Medicare. For instance, thousands of Medicare beneficiaries in Delaware have received a one-time, tax free $250 rebate to help pay for prescriptions in the "doughnut" coverage gap. Moreover, seniors who now enter the Medicare Part D doughnut hole will get a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and a 7 percent discount on generic drugs. Delaware's 140,000 Medicare beneficiaries will receive preventive services, such as screenings for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, cognitive screenings, and an annual wellness visit without having to pay copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles.
"I also want to highlight the new tools the law provides to better protect tax payer dollars by curbing waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. For example, the Affordable Care Act expands the use of Recovery Audit Contractors, which has already saved over $1 billion taxpayer dollars during a pilot program. Secretary Sebelius' testimony also describes big strides to combat waste and fraud from additional provisions of the new law, such as new rules to crack down on those committing Medicare fraud. I am eager to hear how these program integrity steps are being implemented.
"I know that all of my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, share my goals of improving our health care system, extending high quality health care to all Americans, and getting better health care outcomes while lowering costs. The Affordable Care Act is a significant step forward in our effort to improve health care for all Americans, but there is no such thing as a perfect law.
"I urge my colleagues to continue working with me to improve the health reform law and our health care system. While the health reform law is not written in stone, this hearing offers us an important opportunity to work with the Administration to strengthen the law and by extension, further improve our health care system. As I like to say, if it isn't perfect, make it better."