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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 8:27 am | Fair 43º


Capps Votes to Pass Historic Health-Care Legislation

House approves Senate bill on 219-212 vote, then backs companion measure with changes

[Noozhawk’s note: On a party-line vote, the House of Representatives cleared landmark health-care legislation Sunday night that cues the biggest transformation of the U.S. health-care system in history. The House voted 219-212 to pass the Senate’s previously approved health-care measure. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, voted for the bill, which was opposed by all 178 Republicans and 34 Democrats.

Soon after, the House voted 220-211 to approve a companion bill making changes to the Senate legislation, a measure necessary to attract support in the House. The companion bill heads back to the Senate for a vote later this week. All Republicans voted against the companion bill, as did 33 Democrats.

President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the White House late Sunday.

“At a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics,” Obama said in hailing the vote to approve the $940 billion measure. “We proved that this government ... still works for the people.”]

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, released the following statement as she declared her support for the health-care measure Sunday on the House floor:

“Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of passing comprehensive health-care reform legislation.

This moment has been a long time coming. I’ve worked on health care since coming to Congress and passing comprehensive reform has always been a major goal of mine.

I’ve met with and listened to my constituents, along with countless doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, researchers and other health-care experts. They know that America’s health-care system has many wonderful aspects: it can provide the most cutting-edge care, cure diseases thought fatal only a few years ago, and devise new and exciting drugs, devices and treatments with mind-numbing speed.

But we also know our health-care system’s problems are legion. Coverage is erratic, incomplete and can evaporate without notice; costs are out of control for consumers, businesses and taxpayers; and health outcomes are actually better in dozens of countries that spend far less per capita than we do.

The legislation before us addresses these problems and will help ensure that affordable, quality health care is always available to all Americans.

The most trumpeted aspect of the bill is the coverage it would provide to some 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured, including an estimated 92,000 citizens in my own district. Passing this legislation is a matter of life or death for them as an estimated 45,000 Americans die every year because they lack health-care insurance. In addition, the uninsured are much more likely to forego primary care and delay other health-care services leading to the development of otherwise preventable disease, requiring much more invasive and costly treatments.

The bill expands Medicaid to provide coverage for more very low-income individuals, and sets up state exchanges that will serve as marketplaces for individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health plans. The bill provides assistance to some individuals to purchase coverage and tax credits to small businesses so that they can provide health insurance to their employees. And it lets young adults stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. These new mechanisms and support systems should provide coverage to the vast majority of today’s uninsured, improving both the physical and financial health of millions of our fellow citizens.

But, perhaps just as important, the bill offers critical protection for those already with health insurance. Today, insurance companies often drop consumers if they get sick, refuse coverage for so-called pre-existing conditions, and put annual and lifetime limits on a consumer’s coverage. This bill puts an end to those unfair practices. A wife’s diagnosis of cancer or a child’s serious accident shouldn’t be the cause for a family losing health insurance just when it is needed most.

Those currently with coverage will also benefit through lowered insurance premiums. The Congressional Budget Office says premiums will be 14 percent to 20 percent lower per policy holder. Furthermore, the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that without health-care reform individuals and families would see their health insurance premiums rise by as much as 79 percent over the next decade. That is unaffordable, unsustainable, and just one of the many reasons we must enact this legislation.

The bill also makes significant investments to train our next generation of doctors, nurses and allied-health professionals. This is critical because today’s current shortages of nurses and doctors would only be exacerbated as we bring millions of new regular patients into the system without the appropriate investment in our health-care workforce.

The legislation will also make it much easier to access preventive health-care services by eliminating co-pays for important recommended screenings such as those for heart disease or cervical cancer.

Madam Speaker, I’ve been hearing a lot from senior citizens concerned about what our health-care reform proposal would mean for them.

The bill will close Medicare’s prescription drug “doughnut hole,” which in my congressional district affects nearly 9,000 beneficiaries. It is unfair that policyholders should have to pay insurance premiums while receiving no coverage. The legislation before us today will give seniors who fall into the doughnut hole a $250 rebate this year, 50 percent discounts on brand-name drugs when they fall into the doughnut hole beginning next year, and completely close the doughnut hole by 2020. In addition to closing the doughnut hole, we take steps to crack down on fraud, waste and abuse which will extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by nine years, according to the CBO.

Finally, this bill is the largest deficit-reduction measure in a generation. According to the CBO, enactment of this legislation is projected to reduce the federal deficit by $130 billion by 2020 and by more than $1.2 trillion during the following decade. Earlier this year, the Democratic-led Congress reinstated tough “pay-go” budget rules the Republican-led Congress had allowed to lapse in 2003 and this health-care bill is a reflection of our determination to bring our federal books back into balance as they were prior to the Bush administration.

Madam Speaker, I will not argue this is a perfect bill because it is not. Most problematically, it lacks a public option, which would make the insurance market more competitive, ensure the greatest possible choice for consumers and bring down health-care costs even more than the bill does already. I am also deeply disappointed the bill contains inappropriate language that may restrict a woman’s access to reproductive health services.

But I’m also not one to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and in this case, we have legislation that is very good and deserves our favorable consideration.

I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

— Randolph Harrison is chief of staff for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.


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