Washington, DC — Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy, Joe Lieberman, Patty Murray, Thomas Carper, and Maria Cantwell today joined Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler to voice their opposition to the Bush/Enzi bill that Senate Republicans have made the centerpiece of their “health week.”
Across the country, Governors, Attorneys General, and state elected officials from both parties have risen in bipartisan opposition to this flawed plan to strip away consumer protections safeguarding patients in every state in America. These state and local officials have joined a growing chorus of voices, from the American Nurses Association to the American Cancer Society to AARP, speaking out against such dangerous legislation.
“These insurance companies are given special treatment by not having to follow federal anti-trust laws, and our nation’s physicians and their patients have been the worse off for it,” said Senator Leahy, the ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee. “This inequity needs to be corrected and a bill I have introduced would do that by requiring medical malpractice insurers to follow the same laws as other industries in our nation that outlaw price-fixing and bid-rigging.”
“As Attorney General of Connecticut, I stood with consumers and took the insurance industry to court over issues like anti-trust, discrimination against women and mental health benefits. I wouldn’t have been able to do that under this bill,” said Senator Lieberman. “This bill wipes out all state insurance regulations and places power in the hands of insurance industry representatives rather than consumer advocates. In Connecticut, this could mean that mandated coverage for 30 medical conditions like cervical cancer screening, mental health care and Lyme Disease could be dropped. And there would be nothing an attorney general or state legislature could do to stop them.”
“We need real solutions to make healthcare more affordable, accessible and innovative. Unfortunately, the Republican Leadership is wasting time with a flawed bill that will strip away patient protections, hurt many small businesses, and fail to contain costs. We can do better,” Senator Patty Murray said.
“States, not the federal government, have traditionally decided which insurance benefits be guaranteed to their residents,” said Senator Thomas Carper. “Under the Enzi-Nelson bill, however, insurance companies and association health plans could ignore state insurance mandates, thereby denying people needed coverage for cancer screenings and other medical procedures. At a time of escalating health costs, we shouldn’t be passing legislation that will make it harder, not easier, for Americans to get the coverage they deserve.”
“We absolutely need to make sure that small businesses can afford to cover their employees and make it easy for them to do so,” said Cantwell, a member of the Small Business Committee. “I’ve been arguing this for years. But the Enzi/Nelson plan preempts state laws and permits companies to avoid benefit mandates like diabetes education or mental health parity. It is possible to make healthcare coverage more affordable for small businesses without sacrificing important consumer protections. The legislation I’m supporting makes health care affordable while preserving critical consumer protections and benefit packages, something no other proposal that I’ve seen in D.C. seems to be able to do. Our plan helps small businesses pool their purchasing power, drive costs down, and deliver affordable health care to more Americans.”
“There is bipartisan opposition to the Enzi bill in Washington State,” said Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, “because rather than promoting more affordable health care, this legislation would make it more expensive for one-third of the workers. I appreciate that people are desperate to find a health care proposal they can say ‘yes’ to. But doing something that makes the problem worse is not the solution.”
The Republican Bush/Enzi plan takes health care in this country in the wrong direction, and Democrats believe America can do better. Instead of gutting important state protections for patients, the Durbin/Lincoln plan gives the American people access to the same kind of health coverage options as Members of Congress.