WASHINGTON – On Christmas Eve 2009, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) hailed Senate passage of historic health care reform legislation that will help more than 130,000 Delawareans get health care coverage, and improve health care services and reduce costs for all Americans.
“The American people have waited too long for affordable and accessible health care, and today in the Senate we did not let them down,” Sen. Carper said. “This health care reform bill will provide unprecedented security and stability for Americans who have insurance and provide affordable options for those who do not. Our Senate bill will lower costs for American families, businesses and the government, and protect Americans from unfair practices that deny them care when they get sick.”
After nearly a solid month of full Senate debate, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) passed today by a vote of 60 to 39. The Senate bill must be reconciled in January with a differing House version before the final legislation can be sent to President Obama to sign into law.
Key consumer protections in the Senate bill will:
– Eliminate pre-existing conditions for children immediately and for adults in 2014.
– Guarantee 50 percent price discounts on brand name drugs for Medicare seniors who reach the prescription drug coverage gap.
– Require insurers to permit children to stay on family policies until age 26.
– Prohibit annual or lifetime limits by health insurers.
– Require health insurers to spend more of their premium revenues on medical services, with less going to administrative costs and profits—or else pay rebates to their policy holders.
These are just some of the reasons so many groups representing Americans from across the health care system – from doctors and hospitals to patients, small businesses and seniors – are supporting the Senate health reform bill. Supporters include the AARP, the American Medical Association, Doctors for America, the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals and the Consumers Union.
Sen. Carper stressed that this final Senate version is financed responsibly, reins in the growth of health care costs and is fully paid for. The Senate bill is estimated to reduce the federal deficit by $132 billion in the first decade and up to $1.3 trillion in the second decade.
“I made it clear from the start that I would not vote for a bill that increased our national debt and did not rein in the growth of health care costs,” Sen. Carper said. “In these tough economic times, it’s reassuring to know that this health care bill will, in fact, significantly reduce our nation’s deficit, while expanding coverage to 94 percent of all Americans.”
Throughout hundreds of constituent meetings, town hall gatherings, floor statements, media interviews, and Senate Finance Committee hearings, Sen. Carper emphasized the many facets of reform needed to adopt sound health policy, but his priorities remained to rein in the growth of health care costs; to move away from a costly and ineffective, fee- for- service system; and to encourage wellness and incentivize healthy behaviors.
“We know that incentivizing people to take better care of themselves will reduce health care costs,” Sen. Carper stressed. “This Senate bill includes my bipartisan amendment to help employers better incentivize their employees to address some of the major causes of poor health that lead to higher health care costs.”
This Carper amendment increases the premium discount that employers can use to reward employees for participating in wellness programs.
Sen. Carper also led a bipartisan effort to require chain restaurants to list calories on their menus and menu boards.
“With our busy lifestyles and more Americans eating out, diners need easy access to nutritional information,” he said. “Our menu labeling compromise is a common-sense solution that provides consumers with the tools and resources they need to make healthier decisions when eating out.”
Under this Carper provision, restaurants that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name are required to disclose on the menu or menu board the number of calories per menu item. It also requires that consumers, upon request, be given additional nutrition information.
Another Carper provision authorizing $200 million in grants to small businesses to provide access to comprehensive workplace wellness programs was included in the final Senate bill.
“Not only is encouraging wellness and healthy behaviors critical to reducing costs, but I strongly support reining in the growth of health care costs by moving away from traditional fee-for-service,” Sen. Carper said.
One such provision that Sen. Carper calls a game changer is the creation of the CMS Innovation Center.
During a summer visit to the Cleveland Clinic – a non-profit health care delivery system that moved away from fee-for-service and now pays its doctors a salary – Sen. Carper saw first-hand a patient-centered model of care that focuses on primary care, prevention and wellness, managing chronic diseases, and harnessing information technology for the delivery of health care.
Under the Senate bill, this new CMS Innovation Center will test, evaluate, and expand different payment structures and models to foster patient-centered care and improve quality of care.
Another key provision in the bill that Sen. Carper co-authored is the Baucus-Carper-Lincoln Medical Malpractice Reform amendment, which creates state demonstration programs to evaluate alternatives to current medical tort litigation.
“While the total cost of medical malpractice is hard to quantify, we do know that medical malpractice premiums for doctors have almost doubled in the past 10 years, totaling $11.2 billion last year alone,” Sen. Carper said. “And indirect costs associated with medical malpractice, such as defensive medicine, are likely much higher.”
This amendment authorizes grants to states to test alternatives to civil tort litigation, including emphasis on patient safety, disclosure of health care errors, and the early resolution of disputes. Later, the federal government will conduct an evaluation to determine the effectiveness of these alternatives.
With the many recent medical breakthroughs in mapping the human genome, Sen. Carper strongly believes this and other such advancements should be incorporated into the delivery of American health care. The senator co-authored an amendment that ensures patients have access to timely laboratory tests that will help doctors determine which medicines are the most appropriate for their patients.
“This provision will help us begin to take advantage of personalized medicine to improve the delivery of health care, facilitate the discovery and clinical testing of new products, and help determine a patient’s predisposition to a particular disease or condition” Sen. Carper said.
The Delaware senator also supported several provisions to increase accountability from insurance companies, while creating more choice and competition for consumers. These legislative improvements include barring insurers who excessively raise their rates prior to states standing up the new Exchanges, and giving patients the right to appeal to an independent board if an insurance company denies a coverage claim.
And he worked diligently on the multi-state plan option by which health insurers will offer national plans to Americans under the supervision of the Office of Personnel Management, the same entity that oversees health plans for Members of Congress.
“Our Senate bill, and specifically multi-state plans, now ensures that health insurance companies remain accountable to consumers and will provide Americans with more choice in purchasing health insurance,” said Sen. Carper. “By using the same federal agency that negotiates health plans with insurance companies on behalf of all federal employees, we are saying that all Americans deserve access to the same quality and protections enjoyed by Members of Congress.”
More details on the Senate health care bill can be found at: