February 06, 2009

Bipartisan Senate Coalition Introduces First Comprehensive Health Reform Bill of 2009

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) led a bipartisan coalition of 13 Senators today in offering the Healthy Americans Act (S.391), the first piece of legislation in Senate history to assemble such broad-based, bipartisan support for guaranteeing that every American has quality, affordable health care. The Healthy Americans Act introduced today improves on the version first offered in the 110th Congress with the inclusion of several innovative additions developed and agreed upon by the bill's sponsors. The list of co-sponsors includes returning sponsors: U.S Senators Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Arlen Specter (R-Penn), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) as well as new co-sponsors: U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.),

"After decades of debate, our effort is proof that Democrats and Republicans are not only capable of putting partisanship aside, they are ready to work together to finally create a health care system that works for all Americans," said Wyden. "We look forward to working closely with Chairmen Baucus and Kennedy as well as Republican ranking members Grassley and Enzi to bring the Senate together to finally enact meaningful health reform."

"Change is the buzz word in Washington today, and the cosponsors of the Healthy Americans Act are working to ensure that we will see positive change for every American when it comes to our health care system," said Bennett. "Reforming health care has long been viewed as too partisan to touch, but Congress can no longer ignore the bloated spending on a broken health care system, especially at a time when our national deficit has climbed to $1.2 trillion and health care costs are growing at an unsustainable rate."

In addition to guaranteeing that every American can afford quality, private health insurance, the Healthy Americans Act would: give Americans choice in where they get their health care; modernize the employer-employee relationship by making health care portable from job to job (and continue if you lose your job); promote personal responsibility and preventive medicine, and reform the insurance market so that insurers are forced to compete on price, benefits and quality. The legislation mirrors many of the ideas put forward by President Obama in that it guarantees coverage for all Americans, allows those who are happy with their current health care coverage to keep it and does not burden middle-income Americans with new taxes on their health benefits.

The Healthy Americans Act pays for itself by eliminating administrative costs and changing the outdated tax code which currently gives businesses write offs for even the most lavish designer health plans. The Healthy Americans Act would implement a standard health tax deduction that averages $17,000 for a family of four and provides subsidies so that all Americans can afford quality health coverage. Last year, after analyzing the Healthy Americans Act, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation released a report that found that HAA would be roughly budget neutral in 2014 and would - in subsequent years - generate surpluses. An independent analysis of the Healthy Americans Act was also conducted by the non-partisan Lewin Group, which estimates that -- even with covering all Americans - the Healthy Americans Act could save nearly $1.5 trillion in health care spending over the next 10 years.

"All Americans should have equal access to quality healthcare. However, there are numerous factors that will likely impair the availability of healthcare. Healthcare costs are rising significantly, due in large part to advances in medical technology, an increased illness burden, high consumer expectations, and an increased demand for services from our aging population. Making matters worse, it has been challenging to recruit and retain healthcare professionals, resulting in shortages of key specialty providers. If left unchecked, all of the aforementioned challenges will undoubtedly culminate in a disastrous state of affairs for consumers of healthcare services," Senator Inouye said.

"We have long struggled to adequately cover all Americans with health insurance, and I believe the Healthy Americans Act provides a strong basis for moving forward on this important subject," Senator Specter said. "I am pleased to cosponsor this legislation which enacts reforms that enhance our current market-based health care system."

"I am supporting this bi-partisan legislation for the simple reason that it is unacceptable for Americans to not have access to affordable health care," said Lieberman. "This important proposal will ease the burden of health care costs for business while making insurance accessible. I will work hard to pass legislation to address this crisis in our health care system."

"The Healthy Americans Act represents a significant first step in achieving true health care reform for all Americans," said Senator Landrieu. "By striking a balance between affordability and consumer choice, this new plan is a common sense approach to helping the 47 million Americans who lack health insurance. The legislation would also ease the burden on small businesses, while not imposing additional strain on the federal budget. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to improve this bill and to making our health care system more efficient, cost-effective and entrepreneurial."

"Congress is finally ready to tackle what is unquestionably one of the most important and challenging issues facing our nation - health care reform. That is why I am a co-sponsor of the Healthy Americans Act. Over the last two years, we have come together, regardless of party affiliation, to co-sponsor this legislation because we believe that in order for health reform to succeed, it must be bipartisan. The Healthy Americans Act legislation can be used as a model to ensure that all Americans have health coverage that is affordable and portable, that we can implement market reforms for private insurance and modernize federal tax rules for coverage, and that we can promote prevention and wellness activities while making choices for consumers more transparent and affordable," said Senator Crapo.

"By bringing together individuals and groups from all viewpoints, the Healthy Americans Act has highlighted large areas of agreement - an important step in achieving true reform of our health care system," said Senator Bill Nelson.

"The Healthy Americans Act is an important bipartisan effort to achieve universal health care. Health care reform is a work in progress. But I believe there are critical provisions in this bill that focus on prevention and quality, and health care for all Americans while allowing workers to be able to keep their current employer-based insurance if they choose. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure we have a health care system that works for every American family and keeps our businesses competitive," said Senator Stabenow.

"Forty-seven million Americans and 9 million children are living in this country without health care, and as we continue to see record unemployment numbers, those numbers will continue to grow," said Senator Cantwell. "It's more important than ever that we step up and take a serious approach to address our nation's health care crisis. The Healthy Americans Act recognizes that our current system is broken and that in order to fix it, we must start a meaningful dialogue about our health care priorities. By providing affordable, portable, high-quality health care for virtually every American, the Healthy Americans Act is truly a step in the right direction."

"The current economic crisis underscores the need to act on health care reform. Every day, workers are losing their coverage and states are finding it more and more difficult to provide health care for those who are currently eligible for government programs," said Senator Jeff Merkley. "The Healthy Americans Act represents an innovative approach to finally get all Americans covered while lowering health care costs. I applaud Senators Wyden and Bennett for the work they have done on this critical issue."

"This is an important piece of legislation that will help move the debate forward on how to provide affordable health care to all Americans," said Senator Graham. "I appreciate the leadership of Senator Wyden and Senator Bennett on this issue."

In the Senate, the Healthy Americans Act is awaiting action by the Finance Committee. Senators Crapo, Stabenow, Cantwell, Nelson and Wyden are members of the Committee.

To learn more about S.334 visit http://wyden.senate.gov/haa

and http://bennett.senate.gov