Resources on the Cost of Repealing Health Care Reform:
Quality, Affordable Health Insurance for All
Over the course of the last hundred years, there have been several defining pieces of legislation that have helped shape our society and have benefited millions of people. Now, after nearly two year of hard work, families, individuals and small businesses will remember 2010 as the year health care reform was passed and we delivered a huge victory for Montanans and people across the nation.
This legislation will benefit people across the spectrum. After holding dozens of hearings and listening sessions across the state, and talking with thousands of Montanans, this health care bill will ensure quality, affordable health care for hundreds of thousands of Montanans and millions of Americans. From small business owners who will now receive tax credits to help them provide employees with health care benefits to seniors who will no longer have to decide between paying for a trip to the grocery store and this month’s prescription, this is one of the most important and beneficial pieces of legislation ever passed.
Health care reform for Montana and for America means:
• Small Business Tax Credits
• Reducing the Federal Deficit
• Preventing Insurance Company Discrimination
• Helping Seniors With Prescription Drugs And Strengthening Medicare
• Tax Credits For Individuals
I’ve had the distinct honor and privilege of serving the people of Montana for more than 30 years. During that time we have accomplished so much, but nothing has compared to this -- this legislation will benefit just about every person in our state, it will cut our federal deficit by more than $130 billion in the first ten years and it will be a corner stone for generations to build on. Working together, we have created a more affordable, effective health care system for ourselves and for generations to come.
Thank you for helping me and my colleagues build a brighter, healthier future for all Montanans and all Americans.
Medicare Prescription Drugs
Seniors should never have to choose between prescription drugs in their medicine cabinet and food on their table. I'm working to ensure my efforts to reform our health care system are right for Montana's seniors.
Improvements to Medicare
As part of health reform legislation, worked hard to improve the care Montana’s seniors receive every day, including Medicare. Health reform strengthens Medicare by increasing benefits, extending the life of the program, and rooting out fraud, waste and abuse. In 2007, more than 8 million seniors hit the prescription drug coverage gap under Medicare Part D – also known as the “donut hole.” Health reform provides a $250 rebate to seniors who reach this coverage gap in 2010, and will eventually fill the “donut hole” by 2020.
Health reform also eliminates seniors’ deductibles, copayments and other cost-sharing for preventive care and provides free, annual wellness check-ups. The new law also invests in fighting fraud, waste and abuse and provides incentives to avoid expensive and unnecessary hospital admissions and health care acquired infections. All told, these reforms will extend the financial health of Medicare by ten years. Medicare remains a vital program to our country and Montana, and I am committed to ensuring our seniors receive the best available care.
Medicaid serves many Montanans of modest means. I've seen first-hand the importance of Medicaid in providing quality health care for tens of thousands of Montana children, pregnant women, mothers, disabled persons, and senior citizens. I have successfully fought against drastic cuts in the Medicaid program. I am committed to strengthening and improving the Medicaid so it can continue to provide a safety net of health and long-term care services for future generations. With one in five Montanans uninsured, we should work to strengthen this critical part of our health care safety net. I want to look for ways to improve the program, promoting prevention, and finding ways to deliver quality long-term care services more efficiently to keep the program strong.
Another big priority of mine is to make sure that trade displaced workers have access to health care while they are training for a new job. In 2002, I worked hard to provide such assistance to trade-displaced workers, farmers and ranchers. That program, called Trade Adjustment Assistance, now provides assistance by covering 65 percent of health insurance premiums. That program still needs adjustment, and I am working to improve this program to make sure it delivers on its promises of access to health services for displaced workers and retirees.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Making sure Montana’s children have access to quality health care is one of my top priorities. The CHIP program currently provides health care insurance to more than 17,000 low-income kids in Montana alone. The program covers more than 7 million children nationwide. In the last ten years the number of uninsured children has dropped by more than one third. This is a very important program.
I'm proud of the role I played in crafting the federal CHIP legislation when it was passed by Congress and signed into law in 1997.
Since then, I have continued to play a role in supporting the program, both nationally and in Montana.
Reauthorization of CHIP
After a successful ten year history, the CHIP program came up for reauthorization in 2007. I led an effort in the Senate to craft a reauthorization package that would build on the previous success of the CHIP program and provide the additional funds I knew Montana and other states needed. Unfortunately, President Bush vetoed that bill. Congress decided to work on a new compromise and sent a second reauthorization bill to the President Bush, which he also vetoed.
In light of the President’s vetoes, Congress passed a temporary extension of the current program through March 31, 2009. Finally, in January 2009, I led the Finance Committee and Senate passage of the $32.8 billion bill that preserves coverage for as many as 7 million children and brings new health coverage to 4.1 million additional low-income, uninsured American children. In February, President Obama signed the bill into law – making it possible for Montana to implement I-155, expanding CHIP to all kids in families with incomes at or below 250% of federal poverty without fear of a budget shortfall.
Also, as part of comprehensive health reform, I helped extend the current reauthorization period for two more years – through September 30, 2015 – to make sure that kids stay covered while the other reform measures go into effect.
Meth is a real scourge in our state and it isn’t going away quietly. We have a real fight on our hands. Fighting meth is a very personal issue for me. In early 2000, I first began to understand the dangers of this drug and I started to raise the issues back at home and on Capitol Hill. I brought then-Drug Czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey to Billings to hear his thoughts on methamphetamine use. That was nine years ago, and we’re still fighting as hard as ever.
I’m encouraged by the success of the Montana Meth Project, and I have a plan to make sure meth use continues to decline in Big Sky Country. There are several key components to getting rid of meth in Montana and around the country – law enforcement, prevention and treatment. I’m working on all three areas simultaneously.
Law enforcement officials need the tools to clean up the meth labs and stop the dealers from pedaling this very destructive drug. The main thing law enforcement officials need is money. That’s why I fought so hard to get Montana included in the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program (HIDTA). It was a long struggle, but I was committed to twisting arms at every level until we were included in HIDTA. It took a full two years, but we finally got it done. Now Montana receives money for law enforcement to target meth use.
Ever since I got Montana included in Rocky Mountain HIDTA we’ve been fighting to keep Congress from cutting those important HIDTA dollars. Between HIDTA and Byrne grant funding I’ve brought more than $2 million to date to Montana. I led the effort to keep HIDTA funding steady and you can count on me to continue working to bring more dollars to our state to fight meth.
In 2005 I launched a state-wide public service campaign that included a 30-second television ad highlighting the dangers of meth use. I also kicked off my own meth tour traveling around the state, holding meetings with students, and talking about the dangers of meth. I worked even harder on prevention and have spoken to more than 2500 high school students about meth during my meth prevention school assemblies. I brought Montana Meth Project founder Tom Siebel with me to show the students the new Montana Meth ads that are working to make sure the message “not even once,” is on the minds of all young people.
Every time I meet with students I’m amazed by how many students are affected by meth. They have friends that have tried it or are hooked. And then there are those whose parents are addicted.
I’ll continue to meet with kids and their teachers, as well as parents. One of the best ways to keep kids off meth, to prevent them from trying it even once, is to get the parents involved. Parents need to talk to their kids about the dangers of meth. And I want to be there, to help participate in the dialogue between parents and kids about how awful meth is and how it can ruin families.
We had a major victory in 2006 when we successfully got pseudoephedrine, one of the key ingredients of meth, off the shelves and behind the counter. I had been fighting for this move for some time now and am glad we succeeded. This was a huge step. Law enforcement officials said that this was a big victory and it’s one we’ll continue to build on.
We also must focus on treatment for meth abusers. We need to get those who are addicted to meth the medical care and treatment they need and deserve so they can break their addiction and get back on track. I worked with Senators Grassley, Rockefeller, Snowe and Hatch to have the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 passed and signed into law. This law creates a competitive grant program to help individuals, addicted to meth and other substances, receive treatment for the entire family including therapeutic services for their children. So I’m committed to preventing another generation from falling victim to meth and to working to providing more options for those who are hooked on meth to help them get clean and stay clean.
The best way to knock out this awful drug is by working together – sharing ideas, talking about what works and what doesn’t.