LIPINSKI VOTES TO MOVE HEALTH CARE BILL FORWARD, SAYS FINAL BILL MUST IMPROVE TO EARN HIS VOTE
November 7, 2009
Today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) released the following statement regarding passage by the House of Representatives of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act:
"After a painstaking review of its details, and after I succeeded in adding to it restrictions that will prevent taxpayer funding of abortion, I voted today to move the health care reform bill forward. Although it contains a number of critical reforms that I strongly support - including a ban on discrimination by insurers against people with preexisting conditions - this bill is far from perfect in my view, and it will not become law as it is currently drafted. But today's vote is only one step in the legislative process, and I will continue to work to improve the measure. If this bill does not improve when it comes back from the Senate, I will vote against it. Back in February, I made the same pledge on the stimulus bill, and when the Senate failed to return a better bill I did not vote for it. We need health care reform, but it must be the right reform. However, if we had defeated this bill today, we would have lost our opportunity to enact reforms we all know are needed.
"I greatly appreciate the thousands of constituents who have contacted me and my office to share their opinion on health care reform. I recognize that people feel very strongly about this issue, as health care is something that affects everyone. Having read the bill and spent hundreds of hours studying the health care system and speaking with experts, I realize that this bill has its shortcomings, but I believe it represents an honest approach to addressing many of the challenges people face under the current system. Too many people are uninsured and health care absorbs too much of working family budgets.
"I am proud to report that as a result of my leadership, the bill includes a strong amendment that will prevent taxpayer funding of elective abortion. I could not support a bill that allowed such funding. For more than three decades, Congress has approved the Hyde Amendment on an annual basis to prohibit federal funding of abortion. But up until today, it was not part of this bill. The amendment that I co-authored and succeeded in adding reflects the Hyde restrictions and constitutes a continuation of the status quo with regard to public funding of abortion in this country. Guiding this amendment to approval was no easy task, but I was able to ensure its inclusion by refusing to bow to pressure on a point of profound importance to me and to the large majority of Americans who believe taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortion. (Click here to view the floor video.)
"As I have said repeatedly, reform must lower the soaring cost of care and make insurance coverage more affordable and accessible for the hard-working, middle-class residents of the Third District. And it must do so without negatively impacting the quality of care people receive and without adding to the already swollen deficits of our country or our State. The Congressional Budget Office says that this bill is fully paid for, but we must make sure that the final bill that comes back from the Senate holds to my commitment that we do not add a penny to the deficit in the long term. If it does add to the deficit, I will oppose it.
"While H.R. 3962 has its problems, it contains a number of provisions that I strongly support and pushed to make sure were included. Together they form a solid foundation on which to build. The bill would prohibit discrimination by insurers based on preexisting conditions - something that, as a diabetic, I know is critical. It would require hospitals to publicly report the prices they charge - an important reform that would help increase competition among hospitals and lower prices. I have fought for such a measure since I introduced my first bill in Congress, The Hospital Price Disclosure Act, which I introduced once again this year as H.R. 2566. The reform bill also eliminates the coverage gap, known as the "doughnut hole," in the Medicare prescription drug program, and allows the government to negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients for the first time, helping to lower drug prices for seniors. I have repeatedly supported allowing such negotiation and urged it be made part of the bill. In addition, as I advocated, the bill now takes steps to end the health insurance industry's exemption from federal anti-trust laws, which could help to increase competition.
"I am also pleased that the House did not adopt the Senate's proposal to levy an excise tax on middle-class health care plans, which would have aggravated the cost of care to millions of Americans or resulted in fewer benefits in their plans. I also had strong reservations about a public option health care plan based on Medicare rates; this would have hurt seniors' access to doctors. I am glad that my efforts helped result in the use of negotiated rates in the public option.
"I know that the health care status quo is unacceptable. Soaring premium costs have put health insurance coverage out of reach for millions of Americans. For millions of others, it seems that every time they look up, health insurance constitutes a greater share of their paycheck, leaving them with less money to spend on other necessities. Across the Third District, from Berwyn to Oak Lawn, Bridgeport to Countryside, and Mount Greenwood to La Grange, there are hard-working people who are one illness away from bankruptcy. People facing the extraordinary challenges of battling cancer, heart disease, and many other diseases must not be made to worry about balancing their care against their checkbooks.
"In order to change that, this bill will have to do more to tackle the biggest problem with our health care system: the soaring cost of care. Increases in the underlying cost of care - not just insurance industry greed -lie behind skyrocketing premiums. Since 1980, overall spending on health care has risen on average at almost twice the rate of inflation, and per capita health care spending is nearly double what it was 10 years ago. Our system encourages doctors to prescribe too much, test too much, and treat too much. As a result, insurance is prohibitively expensive, with premiums having more than doubled in just a decade. If we do not lower the underlying cost of care, we will have failed to produce the fundamental health reform America needs.
"There are additional ways that we can reform our health care system so that it works for the well-being of all Americans, not just the profits of the health care industry. Reining in the cost of health care is not an impossible goal. On the contrary, it is an unavoidable task. But it will require taking on special interests and implementing genuine, systematic change. I look forward to continuing to fight for that change, and to making sure high-quality health care is affordable for individuals, families, businesses, and taxpayers. Passing this bill today is a step towards that goal."
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