Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–March 22, 2010. Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) issued the following statement today, following the passage of health care reform legislation in the House of Representatives:
“Today marks a victory that has been a long time coming. Longer than the last year, since the White House Forum on Health Care Reform, that health care reform has dominated the public discourse. Farther back than the efforts during the ‘90s, the failure of which resulted in record numbers of uninsured and premiums doubling over the last decade. It even predates my own father’s lifetime commitment to extend the opportunities he was afforded in life to each of his fellow citizens. It is since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, that the people of this country have fought to provide quality, affordable health care for all Americans. We have finally reached that day.
Today is a victory for the many tireless champions of health care reform. My father, of course, was but one of them, committed to fight for those whose voices would not be heard. It is a victory for people like Martin Luther King, Jr., who stood up to remind us, “Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
But most importantly, today is a victory for each and every American who will now be treated with the dignity and respect that comes with the equality of opportunity that affordable access to quality health care provides. It is a victory for the estimated 32 million of our friends and neighbors who will now have access to health care because of this legislation. It is a victory for the millions of Americans who have been discriminated against in the past, denied coverage by an insurance company because they have a pre-existing condition. It is a victory for the millions who are dropped from their policy when they got sick. It is a victory for the millions who face bankruptcy and financial turmoil even though they had health insurance, because they reach an annual or lifetime cap. It is a victory for the small business owners who have been unable to provide their workers with health insurance or remain competitive, and who will now receive tax credits to help them afford to provide coverage for their employees.
I am pleased that the reconciliation package resolves a number of the issues that are especially important to Rhode Islanders. It increases the affordability assurances for Rhode Island families. It delays and changes the so-called “Cadillac tax” to more appropriately target high-end plans and minimizes the adverse effect on middle-class families, older Americans, and high-risk professions. It closes the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” completely. It ensures our primary care physicians are paid Medicaid rates that match Medicare rates, and our hospitals are taking less cuts for the costs they incur treating the uninsured. It eliminates lifetime and annual caps for all health care plans, including grandfathered plans. And it removes special deals for states when it comes to Medicaid costs, so that Rhode Island will be fully reimbursed for the first two years to cover the costs of Medicaid expansion.
A key aspect of this legislation that is of particular importance to me is the extension of the mental health parity protections established into law last year by my legislation, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. Not only are these protections extended to all plans in the Exchange, but mental health and substance use benefits are a part of the essential benefits package created by this legislation. For the 67 percent of adults and 80 percent of children who need mental health care that do not receive it, this victory cannot be understated. Today marks a new day and a giant leap forward towards our transition from a “sick care” system to one which is preventive, collaborative, and patient-centered.
I have been proud to serve the people of Rhode Island the last 16 years, helping to lead the effort in the House of Representatives to take control of our nation’s health care system away from insurance companies and put it back the hands of patients and their doctors. Though I wish my father could been there in body as well as spirit, I could not be more pleased that this effort, to reform our nation’s health care system, was accomplished during my tenure here. There will be many more fights down the road that we must win, starting with the necessity for the United States Senate to adopt the improvements to the health care reform legislation included in the Reconciliation Act. I have every faith that the Senate will act swiftly to accept these changes so that at long last we can better provide quality, affordable health care to all Americans.