Randy Kuhl on Health Care
Republican Representative (NY-29)
Proponent's argument to vote Yes: Sen. PATTY MURRAY (D, WA): President Bush vetoed a bill that would make vital improvements to the program that has helped ensure that millions of seniors and the disabled can get the care they need. This bill puts an emphasis on preventive care that will help our seniors stay healthy, and it will help to keep costs down by enabling those patients to get care before they get seriously ill. This bill will improve coverage for low-income seniors who need expert help to afford basic care. It will help make sure our seniors get mental health care.
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Rep. PALLONE. This is a comprehensive bill which will establish full mental health and addiction care parity. The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 authorized for 5 years partial parity by mandating that the annual and lifetime dollar limit for mental health treatment under group health plans offering mental health coverage be no less than that for physical illnesses. This bill requires full parity and also protects against discrimination by diagnosis.
OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Rep. DEAL of Georgia: I am a supporter of the concept of mental health parity, but this bill before us today is not the correct approach. This path will raise the price of health insurance, and would cause some to lose their health insurance benefits and some employers to terminate mental health benefits altogether.
The bill's focus is also overly broad. Our legislation should focus on serious biologically-based mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, not on jet lag and caffeine addiction, as this bill would include. There are no criteria for judicial review, required notice and comment, or congressional review of future decisions.
I would ask my colleagues to vote "no" today so that we can take up the Senate bill and avoid a possible stalemate in a House-Senate conference on an issue that should be signed into law this Congress.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Bill passed House, 268-148
CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: This Act would enroll all 6 million uninsured children who are eligible, but not enrolled, for coverage under existing programs.
PRESIDENT'S VETO MESSAGE: Our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage--not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage. My Administration strongly supports reauthorization of SCHIP. [But this bill, even with changes, does not meet the requirements I outlined].
It would still shift SCHIP away from its original purpose by covering adults. It would still include coverage of many individuals with incomes higher than the median income. It would still result in government health care for approximately 2 million children who already have private health care coverage.
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Rep. DINGELL: This is not a perfect bill, but it is an excellent bipartisan compromise. The bill protects health insurance coverage for some 6 million children who now depend on SCHIP. It provides health coverage for 3.9 million children who are eligible, yet remain uninsured. Together, this is a total of better than 10 million young Americans who, without this legislation, would not have health insurance.
The bill makes changes to accommodate the President's stated concerns.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Rep. DINGELL: This is not a perfect bill, but it is an excellent bipartisan compromise. The bill provides health coverage for 3.9 million children who are eligible, yet remain uninsured. It meets the concerns expressed in the President's veto message [from HR976]:
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Rep. DEAL: This bill [fails to] fix the previous legislation that has been vetoed:
Veto message from President Bush:
Like its predecessor, HR976, this bill does not put poor children first and it moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction. Ultimately, our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage--not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage. As a result, I cannot sign this legislation.
Proponents support voting YES because:
This legislation is an overdue step to improve part D drug benefits. The bipartisan bill is simple and straightforward. It removes the prohibition from negotiating discounts with pharmaceutical manufacturers, and requires the Secretary of Health & Human Services to negotiate. This legislation will deliver lower premiums to the seniors, lower prices at the pharmacy and savings for all taxpayers.
It is equally important to understand that this legislation does not do certain things. HR4 does not preclude private plans from getting additional discounts on medicines they offer seniors and people with disabilities. HR4 does not establish a national formulary. HR4 does not require price controls. HR4 does not hamstring research and development by pharmaceutical houses. HR4 does not require using the Department of Veterans Affairs' price schedule.
Opponents support voting NO because:
Does ideological purity trump sound public policy? It shouldn't, but, unfortunately, it appears that ideology would profoundly change the Medicare part D prescription drug program, a program that is working well, a program that has arrived on time and under budget. The changes are not being proposed because of any weakness or defect in the program, but because of ideological opposition to market-based prices. Since the inception of the part D program, America's seniors have had access to greater coverage at a lower cost than at any time under Medicare.
Under the guise of negotiation, this bill proposes to enact draconian price controls on pharmaceutical products. Competition has brought significant cost savings to the program. The current system trusts the marketplace, with some guidance, to be the most efficient arbiter of distribution.
H.R. 1181 the Health Insurance Affordability and Equity Act
With 40 million Americans currently living without health insurance, Republican Main Street Partnership members have been leading the effort to find new and innovative ways to secure health care for our citizens. Easing the burden on businesses entering into insurance purchasing pools, and expanding the use of medical savings accounts (MSAs) have been included in previous economic stimulus packages. RMSP Congresswoman Nancy Johnson (CT) in conjunction with Representatives Jo Ann Emerson (MO), Melissa Hart (PA), Jim Kolbe (AZ), Connie Morella (MD), Doug Ose (CA), Marge Roukema (NJ), Rob Simmons (CT), Fred Upton (MI), and Jim Walsh (NY) introduced legislation that targets tax credits to those that are not offered employee provided health insurance, or are self employed.
H.R. 831/S. 621 the Long Term Care and Retirement Security Act.
Republican Main Street Partnership Senators Lincoln Chafee (RI), Susan Collins (ME), and Gordon Smith (OR) joined House of Representatives sponsors Reps. Charlie Bass (NH), Dave Camp (MI), Tom Davis (VA), Greg Ganske (IA), Ben Gilman (NY), Dave Hobson (OH), Steve Horn (CA), Nancy Johnson (CT), Sue Kelly (NY), Ray LaHood (IL), Connie Morella (MD), Deborah Pryce (OH), Jim Ramstad (MN), and Rob Simmons (CT) in securing health insurance for seniors and those in long-term care facilities. As new medicines and healthier lifestyles are extending life, more and more Americans need to prepare for their long-term health needs. This legislation allows a tax deduction on long-term care insurance premiums for taxpayers, including accelerated deductions persons for people 55 years of age and up.
H.R. 2706, The Medicare Telehealth Validation (MTV) Act.
Republican Main Street Partnership members Congressman Doug Ose (CA) and Jo Ann Emerson (MO) have introduced this bill to increase the use of telehealth services under the Medicare program. Currently, telehealth services are restricted to use in certain geographically underserved areas. The MTV Act provides sufficient funding and regulatory relief to expand high technology medical diagnostic tools, across the Internet, to urban as well as rural underserved areas. The bill further provides for expansion of store-and-forward techniques, and for a study of the restrictions on telemedicine due to state licensing rules.
Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
One of issues to be addressed this year by Congress is that of providing a prescription drug benefit to our nation's Medicare beneficiaries. Legislation currently being drafted [by Republican Main Street Partnership members] intends to authorize $350 billion over the next 10 years to provide purchasing assistance for prescription medications. The benefit reaches out to low and moderate income seniors by extending coverage to incomes up to 150% of the poverty level. The bill could also include provisions to correct reimbursement reductions for physicians, nurses, hospitals, technicians, home health care providers, and long-term care facilities.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to provide for mental health screening and treatment services, and to provide for integration of mental health services and mental health treatment outreach teams.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. CLINTON: This bill is an effort to improve the accessibility and quality of mental health services for our rapidly growing population of older Americans. As we look forward to increased longevity, we must also acknowledge the challenges that we face related to the quality of life as we age. Chief among these are mental and behavioral health concerns.
It is estimated that nearly 20% of Americans age 55 or older experience a mental disorder. It is anticipated that the number of seniors with mental health problems will increase from 4 million in 1970 to 15 million in 2030. Mental disorders do not have to be a part of the aging process because we have effective treatments for these conditions. But in far too many instances our seniors go undiagnosed and untreated because of the current divide in our country between health care and mental health care.
That is why I am reintroducing the Positive Aging Act. This legislation would strengthen the delivery of mental health services to older Americans. Specifically, the Positive Aging Act would fund grants to states to provide screening and treatment for mental health disorders in seniors. It would also fund demonstration projects to provide these screening and treatment services to older adults residing in rural areas and in naturally occurring retirement communities, NORC's.
I believe that we owe it to older adults in this country to do all that we can to ensure that high quality mental health care is both available and accessible. This legislation takes an important step in that direction.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; never came to a vote.
Conquer Childhood Cancer Act of 2007 - A bill to advance medical research and treatments into pediatric cancers, ensure patients and families have access to the current treatments and information regarding pediatric cancers, establish a population-based national childhood cancer database, and promote public awareness of pediatric cancers.
A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress that the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) new policy restricting women's access to medications containing estriol does not serve the public interest.
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