WASHINGTON, DC- Following Senate passage of health care reform legislation, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement.
“The U.S. Senate today has taken a historic step toward passing significant and far-reaching improvements to health care for the American people. This legislation will improve health care for people who have insurance, expand coverage to more than 31 million people who do not have coverage and it will reduce costs for Americans as well as overall health care costs and reduce the deficit by $132 billion over ten years.
“We would make health insurance more affordable for Americans and small businesses, end abuses by the insurance companies that deny care and promote choice and competition.
“This bill also makes improvements for children’s health care and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). I have been a strong advocate for protecting and improving CHIP in this bill. We prevented the dismantling of the program and were able to secure a two-year funding extension in addition to other improvements such as strengthening enrollment and outreach mechanisms and immediately implementing provisions to prevent denial of care because of preexisting conditions.
“More power is given to consumers and we end many of the worst practices by insurance companies. Discrimination because of pre-existing conditions would be prohibited. Insurance companies wouldn’t be able to drop coverage if you become sick. Arbitrary limits on coverage would be eliminated.
“Small businesses will receive immediate assistance to make health care coverage for their employees more affordable. Small employers that choose to offer coverage will be eligible for tax credits up to 50% of premiums. This tax cut will help the bottom lines of small businesses who want to provide health care for their employees and free up more capital so they can further invest in their company.
“Because of my amendment to assist vulnerable pregnant women, along with the numerous supports for pregnant women and their children in the underlying health care bill and in CHIP, we can provide a seamless network of support and services from the time a woman becomes pregnant until the time her child reaches adulthood.
“Progress on passing this legislation has met intense partisan opposition. Special interests and the Republican leadership in the Senate have used misinformation, organized opposition and every procedural tactic to prevent providing these benefits to the American people.
“In order to obtain the votes needed to pass this legislation, changes had to be made to preserve the bulk of the bill. I was a strong advocate for the public option during HELP Committee consideration of the bill and on the Senate floor. While I would have preferred a public option, the bill we passed today does include provisions to hold insurance companies accountable, increase competition and reduce costs.
“The House has passed a different version of reform legislation. So we must be vigilant and continue the fight until health care reform reaches President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.”
The landmark legislation passed by the Senate includes numerous benefits. Some of Senator Casey’s top priorities and some of the provisions he worked on are discussed below.
Protecting Children’s Health Care
During HELP Committee consideration of the health care reform bill in July, Senator Casey helped add a number of provisions to improve and protect coverage for children.
He authored provisions to increase outreach and facilitate enrollment for low-income families and children to ensure they are in the best programs to fit their needs.
He worked with Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) to include a number of specific provisions to help children and their families, including: mandating prevention and screenings for children; ensuring pediatric benefits as well as pediatric input into the formulation of benefits packages; ensuring availability of pediatrician-led medical homes; ensuring critical vision and oral health care for children; strengthening the pediatric workforce and expanding drug discounts for children’s hospitals.
Other Improvements for Children
The underlying health care reform bill provides new preventive services at no cost, including prenatal care and preventive care for newborns. Senator Casey also worked tirelessly to ensure the continuity of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as a standalone program, introducing an amendment to further strengthen and safeguard CHIP through 2019. This amendment was supported by over 600 national and state organizations.
* CHIP funding is continued for another two years (September 30, 2013 through September 30, 2015). Originally, the bill provided funding only through September 30, 2013. This funding ensures that children can keep their CHIP coverage during a critical period when health reform is just getting off the ground.
* States will still need to maintain current Medicaid and CHIP eligibility and enrollment procedures for children above 133% of the FPL through fiscal year 2019. However, the amendment clarifies that states must meet this "maintenance of effort" requirement or lose their Medicaid funding.
* The Secretary of HHS will be required to review and certify which plans in the Exchange provide CHIP-comparable benefits and cost sharing, but it is unclear what mechanism will be in place to ensure that these plans exist in the Exchange. Senator Casey is continuing to push – in the final bill which passes Congress -- for a study included in his amendment which would require children to stay in CHIP unless the Secretary certified that coverage and benefits on the Exchange were as good or better than CHIP.
* Extends and increases funding provided in CHIPRA for Medicaid and CHIP enrollment and renewal activities. Now, $140 million (an increase of $40 million) will be available through 2015.
* Immediately prohibits insurers from denying coverage to children for pre-existing conditions.
New Assistance for Pregnant Women and Adoptions to Reduce the Number of Abortions After the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment to the health care reform bill was defeated on the Senate floor, Senator Casey proposed an alternate plan which will reduce the number of abortions by:
* prohibiting discrimination against hospitals or other healthcare providers, because of their unwillingness to provide, pay for, or refer for abortions;
* removing language in the Senate bill that would have mandated one plan with abortion in every exchange.
* strengthening Hyde amendment restrictions in the Exchange by requiring insurers to oversee segregation funds, and to submit to an annual audit by the state Insurance Commissioner
Sen. Casey’s alternate plan will further reduce the number of abortions by:
* creating a federal Pregnancy Assistance Fund, which will receive $250 million over 10 years to provide funding for assistance to pregnant and parenting teens and college students, as well as pregnant victims of domestic violence;
* increasing federal funding for adoption by $1.2 billion over the next two years.
These provisions authored by Senator Casey helped secure the 60th vote needed for passage of health care reform and were endorsed by the Catholic Health Association; many of the leading evangelical pastors in America, including Rev. Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners; Rev. Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action; and Rev. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland Church; as well as dozens of other pro-life and faith leaders.