WISCONSINREPORT.COM (12/24/2009) - The U.S. Senate passed the Senate version of the so-called Health Care Reform early in the morning on Christmas eve, as Democrats hoped. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) says the Senate bill is far from perfect, but, it includes important provisions for Wisconsin. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) explains that the Senate version begins the process of cutting health care costs and hopes the finalized Senate - House compromise bill will reach President Obama for his signature in January.
"The Senate health care bill is far from perfect. I am deeply disappointed it does not include a public option to help keep down costs and I also don’t like the deal making that secured votes with unjustifiable provisions. I will work to improve the bill, including restoring the public option, when the final version is drafted," said Senator Feingold.
"But, while this bill could and should have been much stronger, it includes very important provisions for Wisconsin that I worked to include. The bill will bring more Medicare dollars to Wisconsin by improving the unfair reimbursement formula that has siphoned money away from the state for years, and by rewarding the high-quality, low-cost care practiced at places like Gundersen Lutheran and the Marshfield Clinic," Feingold pointed out.
"Wisconsin taxpayers also win because we will see a boost in Medicaid funding, so our state isn’t harshly penalized for its leadership in expanding coverage. The bill also ends discrimination by insurance companies against people with preexisting conditions, expands coverage to 30 million more Americans and reduces the deficit by an estimated $132 billion," Senator Feingold continued.
"Despite the bill's flaws, it does meet the test of real reform, and the cost of inaction was much too high,” Feingold said.
U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, released the following statement on the Senate’s passage of historic health care reform legislation:
"With this bill, we will begin the process of cutting health care costs, while maintaining quality and expanding coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. This is what we said we would do, and I hope we send a finalized bill to the President when we return in January," Senator Kohl said.
The Senate bill contains a number of provisions championed by Senator Kohl, including:
(1) The Physician Payments Sunshine Act (S. 301), which will require disclosure of gifts and payments given to doctors from the pharmaceutical, biologic, and medical device industries. For over two years, Kohl has been investigating the nature of financial relationships between doctors and industry.
This bill will work to expose conflicts of interest that arise when physicians receive financial benefits from drug and device makers. This policy is also included in the health care reform measure approved by the House of Representatives.
(2) The Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act (S. 647), which will provide consumers with more information about individual nursing homes and their track record of care, offer the government better tools for enforcing high quality standards, and encourage homes to improve on their own.
AARP has called Kohl’s bill, which would significantly raise the bar for standards of care in nursing homes for the first time since 1987, “one of the most significant nursing home reform initiatives” in two decades. This policy is also included in the health care reform measure approved by the House of Representatives.
(3) Medicare Payment Improvement Act of 2009 (S.1249), which will reform the Medicare physician reimbursement so that it rewards health care providers based on the quality of care they provide.
Under this proposal, states like Wisconsin that achieve higher quality-to-cost ratios will receive an increased reimbursement from Medicare. This proposal would help address the problem of geographic variations and reward high-quality providers, such as those in Wisconsin.
(4) The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act (S. 631), which will prevent those with violent or criminal histories from working with vulnerable elders in long-term care settings through the creation of a comprehensive nationwide system of background checks.
This bill will expand a highly successful three-year pilot program instituted in seven states that kept more than 9,500 serial predators out of the long-term care workforce. This policy is also included in the health care reform measure approved by the House of Representatives.
(5) Key provisions from the Retooling the Health Care Workforce for an Aging America Act (S. 245), which will to help expand, train, and support the health care workforce focused on older adults.
(6) Several provisions to protect policyholders, business, and taxpayers from Health Care Fraud and Abuse, including new tools for Justice Department prosecutors, stronger protections from fraud for small businesses that offer employee health coverage, and improved methods for identifying and preventing fraud involving Medicare, Medicaid and private health plans.
(7) The Home and Community Balanced Incentives Act (S. 1256), which will provide states with financial incentives and more flexible plan options for restructuring their Medicaid programs in order to provide an increasing number of beneficiaries with cost-effective home and community-based (HCBS) services.