Senate Democrats have made improving health care for Americans a top priority. Health care reform should protect what works in American health care, while fixing what doesn’t work. Health care costs have reached crisis levels for families, businesses, and the government, and we all have a shared responsibility for bringing costs down and ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
Democrats are committed to a bipartisan and inclusive process, but we have already seen there will be opponents of reform no matter what we do, those who will support the status quo at all costs, even though the status quo is untenable and unsustainable. For far too long, Americans’ health has suffered at the hands of these opponents of reform and the special interests that back them. Now is the time to move forward, and Democrats will no longer let the defenders of a broken system stand in the way of quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
Protecting What Works, Fixing What’s Broken
Many Americans are satisfied with their health coverage and their access to health care, and health reform should allow those who are pleased with what they currently have to keep it. Health care in America has many positive features: Americans benefit from the outstanding care of many excellent doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, and the United States is a leader in medical innovation and scientific research. Senate Democrats will protect and build upon these features of our health care system, while fixing what doesn’t work, including lowering costs and improving quality of care, to ensure that we have the best, most cost-effective and accessible health care in the world.
Addressing the Health Care Cost Crisis
Make no mistake – we have a health care cost crisis in America. The skyrocketing costs of health care – including insurance premiums, copayments and prescription drugs – are hitting families, businesses, and the government. Too many Americans live in fear of the astronomical costs they would incur if they or their families experience an unexpected health care emergency.
Sharing Responsibility for Health Reform
Because we are all affected by the health care cost crisis – individuals, businesses, and the government – we’re all in this together. We all have a shared responsibility to reform health care in America, and we should all contribute our fair share.
Offering Choices, Including the Choice to Keep What You Have
Health care in America is built on choice – Americans choose their own doctor, hospital, and health coverage, and make their own treatment choices with the advice of their doctor. Senate Democrats are committed to preserving these choices, including the choice to keep what you have.
- Choice of doctors and treatments. A patient’s relationship with their doctor is a personal one, and no one – certainly no politician or bureaucrat – should interfere with that relationship. Senate Democrats will ensure that health reform preserves the private patient-doctor relationship. Democrats want physicians to have complete and accurate information when advising their patients regarding which treatments are best for them.
- Choice of health coverage options, including a public option. Senate Democrats believe health insurers should compete for Americans’ business on the basis of price and service, and that Americans should have a range of health insurance plans from which to choose. A public option provides one more choice and increases competition for all Americans, particularly those who are unsatisfied with their current coverage or are uninsured. Providing many alternatives for consumers keeps insurance companies honest, responsive, and accountable to their customers.
- Health care Americans control. Nearly 160 million Americans with employer-based health insurance are only a pink slip away from losing their coverage. Senate Democrats are committed to health reforms that provide more Americans with stability and control, helping them stay covered through changes in life, such as job loss, divorce, bankruptcy, or other circumstances.
Quality, Affordable Health Care for All Americans
Providing all Americans with quality, affordable health care means ensuring every American receives the health care they need, when they need it, at prices they can afford. In legislation passed already this year, Senate Democrats have laid the groundwork for health reform, making investments to improve quality and reduce health care costs. Senate Democrats will focus on strengthening these priority areas as the reform debate progresses.
- Prevention and wellness. The Recovery Act and the Omnibus included more than $1.5 billion for prevention and wellness programs to help Americans stay healthy and productive. Promoting wellness and preventing disease saves everyone the cost of expensive medical treatment and allows Americans to live longer, more productive lives.
- Patient-centered health research. Americans know their doctors want what’s best for them, and patient-centered health research gives doctors the tools they need to provide the best care for every individual. Information is power, and patient-centered health research empowers doctors with independent, unbiased research on what works and what doesn’t for each patient. As part of the Recovery Act, Democrats invested $1.1 billion in the research doctors need to ensure every American gets the care they need, when they need it.
- Medical innovation and scientific research. America is a world leader in medical innovation and scientific advancement, and Senate Democrats are committed to ensuring we maintain this position. The Recovery Act and the Omnibus invested more than $40 billion in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the leading source of biomedical research and a key player in improving human health and extending lives.
- Private electronic medical records. In a medical emergency, Americans deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing all their critical health information is available to the doctor treating them, and is not available to anyone else. Investments in health information technology (IT) have the potential to save billions of dollars by reducing health care costs and ensuring Americans get the care they need, when they need it, while maintaining the privacy Americans value so highly. The Recovery Act invested $19 billion in the modernization and implementation of health IT. This investment will help avoid medical errors that occur when doctors lack complete information about their patient’s medical history and will help reduce costs by ensuring patients don’t receive duplicate tests or diagnostic procedures, simply because documentation of the original test was not readily available.
- Eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse. Up to one-third of our nation’s health care spending does not improve health outcomes, meaning $700 billion of health spending per year does not make us any healthier. Fraud and abuse are also of serious concern, and while it is very difficult to determine the exact amount of taxpayer funds lost to waste, fraud, and abuse, the government must do a better job of ensuring patients, businesses, and the government pay only for appropriate, legitimate health care services, and not for bad actors trying to game the system.
- Children’s health. Health reform must ensure that our children receive quality health care, particularly well-child doctor’s visits and preventive screenings, whenever necessary. Earlier this year, Senate Democrats passed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA, P.L. 111-3), which reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to continue and expand access to health insurance for lower-income children. This new law allows 6.7 million children to continue receiving health care coverage and extends coverage to 4.1 million children who are currently uninsured.
As Congress and the President explore options for providing quality, affordable health care for all Americans, Senate Democrats are committed to a full and open debate that continues to move health reform forward. Now is the time to make reform a reality, and Democrats will not yield to defenders of the status quo and the special interests who back them. Upfront investments may be necessary, but Senate Democrats are committed to health reform that ultimately lowers health care costs for individuals, for businesses, and for the government, and which will place our nation on the path to fiscal stability and ensure that every American receives the health care they need – when they need it.