January 7, 2010
In Iowa's Interest: Senate Passes Landmark Health Reform
On December 24, the Senate delivered Americans a Christmas gift that rivals almost anything Santa could have brought - the passage of landmark legislation to reform America’s health care system. This bill erases a dividing line that has left millions of Americans without health insurance, without regular medical care for their children and just one serious illness away from financial catastrophe. With its passage, we say that for every member of our family, access to quality, affordable health care should be a right, not a privilege.
Understandably, Iowans have been dismayed by the raucous debate and messy legislative process surrounding health reform. However, it bears remembering that the debates leading up to passage of Social Security and Medicare were no less turbulent and partisan. These programs originally pitted Democrats against Republicans, left against right. But today they are hugely successful programs that enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support.
We now also understand why earlier attempts at comprehensive health reform failed. We have seen that entrenched special interests are extraordinarily powerful. But by passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act we will finally break their stranglehold. The bill will usher in landmark reforms that benefit Iowans- and all Americans - such as:
- It will extend access to quality, affordable health care to an estimated 30 million Americans who do not currently have coverage.
- It will crack down on abuses by health insurance companies – abuses that currently leave most Americans, including those who have health insurance, just one serious illness away from bankruptcy. These include denying health insurance coverage to people with preexisting conditions and cancelling the policies of people who get sick. It will put an end to lifetime limits on benefits and restrict the use of annual limits. And it will end the insurance industry’s practice of charging women more than men for the same coverage.
- It includes a whole array of provisions to transform our current sick care system into a true health care system – one focused on preventing chronic disease and keeping people out of the hospital in the first place. This will save lives and money – indeed, it is the key to holding down future health care costs. This is an issue that I have championed for many years.
In addition to these larger reforms, Iowa in particular will see a number of advancements. Our legislation creates a dedicated funding stream for Community Health Centers and a grants program to recruit health professionals to underserved rural communities. To increase access and care for seniors, the bill adjusts Medicare reimbursement rates for low-volume hospitals and adjusts the Medicare reimbursement rate to health professionals. For small businesses, it provides tax credits to make employee coverage more affordable.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the opening act in health reform, not the final act. When Social Security and Medicare were originally passed, they had significant gaps in coverage. Subsequent Congresses built on the foundation of those original reforms, as I am confident future Congresses will make additions and improvements to our bill.
As Congress reconvenes after the holidays, there is still more work to be done, but I am confident that we will soon have a final health reform bill on President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. And this bill will create a reformed insurance and health care system that works not just for the healthy and the wealthy, but for all Americans.