Issue Position: Health Care
The Affordable Care Act
I am proud to support the historic Affordable Care Act -- the 2010 health care reform bill that recently became law and will help over 30 million Americans, including almost 3 million uninsured New Yorkers to gain access to affordable health insurance.
The new law cuts the federal deficit by $143 billion over 10 years and up to $1.3 trillion in the second decade. Beginning in 2014, more than one million New Yorkers will be eligible to participate in the huge and unprecedented middle class tax cuts that will help pay for the cost of private health insurance. These tax cuts, which total an estimated $110 billion nationally in 2014, will be provided in the form of tax credits to New Yorkers to offset the cost of their health insurance premiums, and will be worth billions of dollars to New York residents that year.
Millions of New Yorkers visit community health centers every year to access high quality and affordable medical, dental and preventive care. The ACA included more than $11 billion over 5 years to expand U.S. community health centers and ensure that American families have access to high quality care. Seniors and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
The Affordable Care Act makes great strides to strengthen and reform Medicare, the government's health insurance system for seniors and people with disabilities. These important reforms will improve Medicare for all seniors and taxpayers, provide all beneficiaries with important new free preventative benefits, and extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by 12 years. For more than 250,000 New York seniors who hit the "donut hole" or gap in prescription drug coverage every year, the new law provided a $250 check in 2010 and then a 50+% discounts on their drugs for 2011 and beyond until the hole is filled in 2020.
The ACA prioritizes quality for Medicare Advantage plans and penalizes plans that do not have a high quality star rating. Approximately 1 million New Yorkers are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans and I am happy to fight for them to get the best, most affordable care.
Medicare is a landmark public health insurance program that covers retirees and individuals with disabilities -- more than 45 million Americans nationwide. Before Medicare was enacted, nearly half of all retirees were uninsured. Now virtually all retirees have access to meaningful health coverage through Medicare. As health care costs grow, so do the costs of Medicare. I believe that it is crucial that we preserve and strengthen Medicare so that retirees and individuals with disabilities can continue to rely on the essential health care coverage it provides.
Correcting the Medicare Physician Payment Formula
Every year for the last several years, we have had to fight to reverse cuts to Medicare physician payments. I strongly support fixing the flawed Medicare sustainable growth rate formula (SGR) . I voted for the Medicare Physician Fairness Act (S. 1776) in October 2009 and would have permanently fixed the SGR formula, but unfortunately, this motion did not pass and the Senate was unable to vote on the bill itself. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to find a permanent solution to the SGR that would give physicians a fair payment rate.
More Affordable Generic Drugs
I am proud to champion access to affordable prescription drugs for all Americans. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) , generic drugs save consumers an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion each year.
The laws related to generic drugs were designed to strike a balance between rewarding blockbuster drug companies for their research and development while ensuring that less expensive generic drugs are widely available to consumers. In the 1990s, the brand drug industry was stifling low-cost competition with a host of tactics - including filing frivolous patents with the FDA on the color of a pill bottle and paying generic manufacturers not to sell their drugs. In so doing, these tactics allow the brand companies to keep charging high prices and delay the arrival of lower-cost alternatives. In 2003, with the bipartisan support of Senators Judd Gregg and John McCain , we successfully enacted legislation that would close loopholes in the generic drug approval law.
Generic Biologic Drugs
Biologics prescription drugs are a new generation of life-saving treatments for diseases like cancer, arthritis, and diabetes, but they are often prohibitively expensive. Just as the availability of generic drugs have helped bring down the costs of medicines for millions of Americans, competing versions of brand-name biologics will make these breakthrough treatments more accessible and affordable for middle class families.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, there was no way for the FDA to approve generic versions of biologic drugs. As a result, the manufacturers of these drugs have had essentially lifetime patents -- it was impossible to bring a generic version of the biologic to market. Now because of the new law, the FDA has started work to implement the pathway, and we have already seen generic drug companies start work to bring affordable generics to the market. The CBO estimated that the new approval pathway, which is similar to a bill I introduced with bipartisan support will save taxpayers at least $7 billion dollars.
Medical Research and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The scientific breakthroughs accomplished by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) represent our greatest hope for treating and curing diseases and I have been a strong supporter of increasing our investment in health care research throughout my career. It is crucial that we make increased NIH funding a national priority as we did a decade ago. I will work with my colleagues to ensure that biomedical students and researchers throughout New York State and the nation receive the resources they need to develop cures and improve treatments for the devastating diseases that affect citizens of our nation. Health Care in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law in February 2009, contains provisions to expand quality improvement measures emphasizing prevention, primary care, early diagnosis, chronic disease management, and a more robust health information technology system. The law includes $1 billion in funding for prevention and wellness programs and $19 billion toward expanding health information technology and the use of electronic health records nationwide. Electronic medical records and electronic prescribing, in particular, can lead to lower costs and better coordinated care - reducing errors, and saving lives. This funding will continue to help doctors, hospitals, and other health care professionals make dramatic improvements in the way they treat patients.
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) , I helped secure $79 million in funding for New York's community health centers. Among the awards are Increased Demand for Services (IDS) grants , which were distributed to 1,128 federally-qualified health centers across the country. In New York, $19.4 million in IDS grants were distributed to 51 federally-qualified health care centers, which will be used to help expand access to needed services for patients.
Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the health programs at the Department of Health and Human Services received $27 billion. Of this total, $1.5 billion will be allocated for scientific research, construction and improvement of research facilities, and the purchasing of scientific equipment. ARRA also provides a total of $10.4 billion for NIH, of which $8.2 billion will be used to support scientific research priorities.