Udall Statement on Historic Vote to Pass Health Care Reform
Udall: Senate Health Care Bill is a Solid Foundation that Provides Coloradans Greater Health Care Security, Helps America Return to Economic Prosperity
Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Mark Udall released the following statement after joining his Senate colleagues in passing landmark health reform legislation, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:
"Before I cast this vote I was thinking of the families and small business owners I have talked to from across the state, who have shared their stories and described their need for a more stable and cost effective health care system. They told me they wanted legislation that would guarantee insurance companies will keep their promises to their consumers. And they told me they are concerned about the impact rising health care costs have on our national debt and about the strength of Medicare for the long-term.
"The bill is far from perfect, and it doesn't include everything I would like. But it is a solid foundation that will give families the security they need to stay healthy, provide entrepreneurs the freedom to start a business, and begin to rein in health care costs and get control of our skyrocketing debt. And I am particularly pleased that this bill contains provisions I proposed to encourage innovation and ensure that health reform doesn't leave rural America behind.
"While Senate passage of this bill is a major milestone in the journey toward meaningful health insurance reform, there is still work to be done in a conference committee with the House. I will spend the coming weeks fighting to ensure that the final legislation keeps faith with the people of Colorado."
The following is a summary of the Udall-authored and co-sponsored amendments included in the Senate's health insurance reform legislation:
Improving Rural Health Care
· Rural Physicians Pipeline Act - Senator Udall's amendment would address the shortfall of rural physicians by creating a grant program to help expand rural training programs at medical schools. Of Colorado's 47 rural counties, all but three are designated by the federal government as "health professional shortage areas." This amendment would train "home-grown" doctors with a real, personal interest in the health of their communities. A 2008 study found that if all medical schools enrolled just 10 students per class in a program like this, we could double the number of graduating rural doctors.
· Emphasizing Prevention and Wellness in Rural Communities - This Udall-authored amendment would expand a provision in the Senate bill that creates a new Community Transformation Grant (CTG) program to help prevent and reduce chronic disease in communities around the country. In order to ensure that big cities are not getting a disproportionate share of this important funding, Senator Udall's amendment requires that these grants be distributed equitably between both rural and urban areas.
Cutting Costs and Expanding Innovation
· Independent Payment Advisory Board - This key amendment, which Senator Udall offered as part of a package by 11 freshman Democratic Senators, expands the scope of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (formerly called the Independent Medicare Advisory Board). The Payment Board is a provision in the Senate bill already championed by Senator Rockefeller, designed to reduce Medicare spending costs.
Senator Udall's amendment directs the board to examine not just Medicare but the entire health care system to find ways to slow the growth of health costs - including steps the private sector could take voluntarily. The provision is based on comments he heard from groups in Colorado and around the country, ranging from AARP to business to labor organizations, as well as suggestions from the Congressional Budget Office on how best to contain costs.
Improving Treatment for Debilitating Diseases
· Cures Acceleration Network - In recent years, the pharmaceutical industry has focused its efforts on the development of "blockbuster" drugs for conditions like hypertension or high cholesterol that will be assured a large market once they are approved. But not all treatments can be "blockbuster drugs" in terms of their lucrative profit potential, and we need to make sure we're incentivizing the development of life-saving treatments for diseases and conditions that can improve and preserve the lives of all Americans. Senator Udall was the lone co-sponsor of this amendment, filed by Senator Specter, to set up a new public-private program at the National Institutes of Health, which provides grants to accelerate the development of drugs and treatments for diseases lacking a market-based incentive for being studied.
Eliminating Health Disparities in Minority Populations
· Office of Minority Health - In Colorado (much like the rest of the nation), minorities have higher incidences of diabetes, childhood obesity, dental disease, childhood asthma and other diseases. Many face obstacles to care, including geographic, cultural and language barriers, racial bias, and poverty. This amendment, which Senator Udall co-sponsored with Senator Cardin of Maryland, strengthens and codifies into law the Offices of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. These offices are critical to monitoring health care trends and quality of care among minority patients in order to evaluate the success of minority health programs and initiatives.
· Modernizing Health Services for Indians - Senator Udall co-sponsored this important amendment offered by the Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, Byron Dorgan, which reauthorizes and modernizes the Indian Health Service. This amendment, among other important provisions, would modernize health care delivery systems, address the shortage of medical professionals, promote disease prevention and wellness efforts, and provide resources to address the increasing rate of Indian youth suicide and mental health disparities.
Please contact Tara Trujillo at 720-333-3425.