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Laura Richardson on Health Care

Democrat


Voted NO on the Ryan Budget: Medicare choice, tax & spending cuts.

Proponent's Arguments for voting Yes:

[Sen. DeMint, R-SC]: The Democrats have Medicare on a course of bankruptcy. Republicans are trying to save Medicare & make sure there are options for seniors in the future. Medicare will not be there 5 or 10 years from now. Doctors will not see Medicare patients at the rate [Congress will] pay.

[Sen. Ayotte, R-NH]: We have 3 choices when it comes to addressing rising health care costs in Medicare. We can do nothing & watch the program go bankrupt in 2024. We can go forward with the President's proposal to ration care through an unelected board of 15 bureaucrats. Or we can show real leadership & strengthen the program to make it solvent for current beneficiaries, and allow future beneficiaries to make choices.

Opponent's Arguments for voting No:

[Sen. Conrad, D-ND]: In the House Republican budget plan, the first thing they do is cut $4 trillion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the wealthiest among us, they give them an additional $1 trillion in tax reductions. To offset these massive new tax cuts, they have decided to shred the social safety net. They have decided to shred Medicare. They have decided to shred program after program so they can give more tax cuts to those who are the wealthiest among us.

[Sen. Merkley, D-TK]: The Republicans chose to end Medicare as we know it. The Republican plan reopens the doughnut hole. That is the hole into which seniors fall when, after they have some assistance with the first drugs they need, they get no assistance until they reach a catastrophic level. It is in that hole that seniors have had their finances devastated. We fixed it. Republicans want to unfix it and throw seniors back into the abyss. Then, instead of guaranteeing Medicare coverage for a fixed set of benefits for every senior--as Medicare does now--the Republican plan gives seniors a coupon and says: Good luck. Go buy your insurance. If the insurance goes up, too bad.

Reference: Ryan Budget Plan; Bill HCR34&SCR21 ; vote number 11-HV277 on Apr 15, 2011

Voted NO on repealing the "Prevention and Public Health" slush fund.

Congressional Summary:Amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to repeal provisions establishing and appropriating funds to the Prevention and Public Health Fund (a Fund to provide for expanded and sustained national investment in prevention and public health programs to improve health and help restrain the rate of growth in private and public sector health care costs). Rescinds any unobligated balanced appropriated to such Fund.

Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Pitts, R-PA]: Section 4002 of PPACA establishes a Prevention and Public Health Fund, which my bill, H.R. 1217, would repeal. The PPACA section authorizes the appropriation of and appropriates to the fund from the Treasury the following amounts:

We have created a slush fund from which the Secretary of HHS can spend without any congressional oversight or approval. I would suggest to my colleagues that, if you wanted more funding to go towards smoking cessation or to any other program, the health care law should have contained an explicit authorization. By eliminating this fund, we are not cutting any specific program. This is about reclaiming our oversight role of how Federal tax dollars should be used.

Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Waxman, D-CA]: This bill represents the Republicans' newest line of attack to disrupt, dismantle, and to ultimately destroy the Affordable Care Act. For many years, Republicans have joined with Democrats in supporting programs to prevent disease, to promote health and, in turn, to cut health care costs. But today, the House will vote to end funding for the first and only Federal program with dedicated, ongoing resources designed to make us a healthier Nation.

Reference: To repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund; Bill H.1217 ; vote number 11-HV264 on Apr 13, 2011

Voted YES on regulating tobacco as a drug.

Congressional Summary:Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to provide for the regulation of tobacco products by the Secretary of Health and Human Services through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Defines a tobacco product as any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption. Excludes from FDA authority the tobacco leaf and tobacco farms.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. HEATH SHULER (D, NC-11): Putting a dangerous, overworked FDA in charge of tobacco is a threat to public safety. Last year, the FDA commissioner testified that he had serious concerns that this bill could undermine the public health role of the FDA. And the FDA Science Board said the FDA's inability to keep up with scientific advancements means that Americans' lives will be at risk.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes: Rep. HENRY WAXMAN (D, CA-30): The bill before us, the Waxman-Platts bill, has been carefully crafted over more than a decade, in close consultation with the public health community. It's been endorsed by over 1,000 different public health, scientific, medical, faith, and community organizations.

Sen. HARRY REID (D, NV): Yesterday, 3,500 children who had never smoked before tried their first cigarette. For some, it will also be their last cigarette but certainly not all. If you think 3,500 is a scary number, how about 3.5 million. That is a pretty scary number. That is how many American high school kids smoke--3.5 million. Nearly all of them aren't old enough to buy cigarettes. It means we have as many boys and girls smoking as are participating in athletics in high schools. We have as many as are playing football, basketball, track and field, and baseball combined.

Reference: Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act; Bill HR1256&S982 ; vote number 2009-H187 on Apr 2, 2009

Voted YES on expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:

Rep. FRANK PALLONE (D, NJ-6): In the last Congress, we passed legislation that enjoyed bipartisan support as well as the support of the American people. Unfortunately, it did not enjoy the support of the President, who vetoed our bill twice, and went on to proclaim that uninsured children can simply go to the emergency room to have their medical needs met. As the Nation moves deeper into a recession and unemployment rates continue to rise, millions of Americans are joining the ranks of the uninsured, many of whom are children. We can't delay. We must enact this legislation now.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. ROY BLUNT (R, MI-7): This bill doesn't require the States to meet any kind of threshold standard that would ensure that States were doing everything they could to find kids who needed insurance before they begin to spend money to find kids who may not have the same need. Under the bill several thousands of American families would be poor enough to qualify for SCHIP and have the government pay for their health care, but they'd be rich enough to still be required to pay the alternative minimum tax. The bill changes welfare participation laws by eliminating the 5-year waiting period for legal immigrants to lawfully reside in the country before they can participate in this program. In the final bill, we assume that 65% of the children receiving the benefit wouldn't get the benefit anymore. It seems to me this bill needs more work, would have benefited from a committee hearing. It doesn't prioritize poor kids to ensure that they get health care first.

Reference: SCHIP Reauthorization Act; Bill H.R.2 ; vote number 2009-H016 on Jan 14, 2009

Voted YES on overriding veto on expansion of Medicare.

Congressional Summary:Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH's veto message (argument to vote No):In addition, H.R. 6331 would delay important reforms like the Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies competitive bidding program. Changing policy in mid-stream is also confusing to beneficiaries who are receiving services from quality suppliers at lower prices. In order to slow the growth in Medicare spending, competition within the program should be expanded, not diminished.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes: Sen. PATTY MURRAY (D, WA): President Bush vetoed a bill that would make vital improvements to the program that has helped ensure that millions of seniors and the disabled can get the care they need. This bill puts an emphasis on preventive care that will help our seniors stay healthy, and it will help to keep costs down by enabling those patients to get care before they get seriously ill. This bill will improve coverage for low-income seniors who need expert help to afford basic care. It will help make sure our seniors get mental health care.

Reference: Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act; Bill HR.6331 ; vote number 2008-H491 on Jul 15, 2008

Voted YES on giving mental health full equity with physical health.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Rep. PALLONE. This is a comprehensive bill which will establish full mental health and addiction care parity. The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 authorized for 5 years partial parity by mandating that the annual and lifetime dollar limit for mental health treatment under group health plans offering mental health coverage be no less than that for physical illnesses. This bill requires full parity and also protects against discrimination by diagnosis.

OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Rep. DEAL of Georgia: I am a supporter of the concept of mental health parity, but this bill before us today is not the correct approach. This path will raise the price of health insurance, and would cause some to lose their health insurance benefits and some employers to terminate mental health benefits altogether.

The bill's focus is also overly broad. Our legislation should focus on serious biologically-based mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, not on jet lag and caffeine addiction, as this bill would include. There are no criteria for judicial review, required notice and comment, or congressional review of future decisions.

I would ask my colleagues to vote "no" today so that we can take up the Senate bill and avoid a possible stalemate in a House-Senate conference on an issue that should be signed into law this Congress.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Bill passed House, 268-148

Reference: Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act; Bill H.R.1424 ; vote number 08-HR1424 on Mar 5, 2008

Voted YES on Veto override: Extend SCHIP to cover 6M more kids.

OnTheIssues Explanation: This vote is a veto override of the SCHIP extension (State Children's Health Insurance Program). The bill passed the House 265-142 on 10/25/07, and was vetoed by Pres. Bush on 12/12/07.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: This Act would enroll all 6 million uninsured children who are eligible, but not enrolled, for coverage under existing programs.

PRESIDENT'S VETO MESSAGE: Our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage--not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage. My Administration strongly supports reauthorization of SCHIP. [But this bill, even with changes, does not meet the requirements I outlined].

It would still shift SCHIP away from its original purpose by covering adults. It would still include coverage of many individuals with incomes higher than the median income. It would still result in government health care for approximately 2 million children who already have private health care coverage.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Rep. DINGELL: This is not a perfect bill, but it is an excellent bipartisan compromise. The bill protects health insurance coverage for some 6 million children who now depend on SCHIP. It provides health coverage for 3.9 million children who are eligible, yet remain uninsured. Together, this is a total of better than 10 million young Americans who, without this legislation, would not have health insurance.

The bill makes changes to accommodate the President's stated concerns.

  1. It terminates the coverage of childless adults in 1 year.
  2. It prohibits States from covering children in families with incomes above $51,000.
  3. It contains adequate enforcement to ensure that only US citizens are covered.
  4. It encourages securing health insurance provided through private employer.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Veto override failed, 260-152 (2/3rds required)
Reference: SCHIP Extension; Bill Veto override on H.R.3963 ; vote number 08-HR3963 on Jan 23, 2008

Voted YES on adding 2 to 4 million children to SCHIP eligibility.

Allows State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP), that require state legislation to meet additional requirements imposed by this Act, additional time to make required plan changes. Pres. Bush vetoed this bill on Dec. 12, 2007, as well as a version (HR976) from Feb. 2007.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Rep. DINGELL: This is not a perfect bill, but it is an excellent bipartisan compromise. The bill provides health coverage for 3.9 million children who are eligible, yet remain uninsured. It meets the concerns expressed in the President's veto message [from HR976]:

  1. It terminates the coverage of childless adults.
  2. It targets bonus payments only to States that increase enrollments of the poorest uninsured children, and it prohibits States from covering families with incomes above $51,000.
  3. It contains adequate enforcement to ensure that only US citizens are covered.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Rep. DEAL: This bill [fails to] fix the previous legislation that has been vetoed:

Veto message from President Bush:

Like its predecessor, HR976, this bill does not put poor children first and it moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction. Ultimately, our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage--not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage. As a result, I cannot sign this legislation.

Reference: Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act; Bill H.R. 3963 ; vote number 2007-1009 on Oct 25, 2007

Increase funding for AIDS treatment & prevention.

Richardson adopted the CBC principles:

HIV/AIDS Initiatives
The CBC’s Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative will focus on those areas hardest hit by the epidemic, many of which are in districts that we represent. The initiative will focus on prevention and treatment and we will also seek to re-direct and/or increase funding levels based on a detailed review of the implementation of the initiative. In addition, the CBC recognizes the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on the global workforce, specifically in Africa, and on the allocation of resources of developing countries. Therefore, the CBC will continue its efforts to support a comprehensive global policy aimed at ending the scourge of HIV/AIDS around the globe.

Source: Congressional Black Caucus press release 01-CBC5 on Jan 6, 2001

More funding for Rx benefits, community health, CHIPs.

Richardson adopted the CBC principles:

Source: Congressional Black Caucus press release 01-CBC6 on Jan 6, 2001

MEDS Plan: Cover senior Rx under Medicare.

Richardson adopted the Progressive Caucus Position Paper:

Summary of the Medicare Extention of Drugs To Seniors Act (Meds)

MEDS establishes an 80/20 outpatient prescription drug benefit under a new Medicare Part D that will be administered by the Health Care Financing Administration. The plan will cost similar to figures for the Bush prescription drug plan due to this plan’s emphasis on lowering the price of pharmaceuticals.

Premiums and Low-income Assistance:

Premiums would be $24/month in the first year and indexed to a pharmaceutical Sustainable Growth Rate, which will ensure that premiums or drug costs do not increase arbitrarily.

Employer Incentive Program:

Employers providing drug coverage equal to or better than the Medicare coverage receive an incentive payment to maintain such coverage.
Source: CPC Press Release, MEDS Plan 01-CPC3 on Jan 31, 2001

Increase funding for occupational & physical therapy.

Richardson signed Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act (MARS)

Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2011 - Amends title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to repeal the cap on outpatient physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and occupational therapy services of the type furnished by a physician or as an incident to physicians' services.

SEC. 2. OUTPATIENT THERAPY CAP REPEAL.

Section 1833 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395(l)) is amended by striking subsection (g).

[Explanatory note from Wikipedia.com "Therapy Cap"]:

In 1997 Congress established per-person Medicare spending limits, or "therapy cap" for nonhospital outpatient therapy, but responding to concerns that some people with Medicare need extensive services, it has since placed temporary moratoriums on the caps. The therapy cap is a combined $1,810 Medicare cap for physical therapy and speech language pathology, and a separate $1,810 cap for occupational therapy ($1870 for 2011). Medicare patients requiring rehabilitation from disabilities, car accidents, hip injuries, stroke, and other ailments would be limited to roughly two months worth of treatments at an outpatient therapy clinic. Any patients that exceed the cap, whether they are healed or not, would have to stop therapy, or pay for the therapy services out of their own pocket.Several medical associations have lobbied against therapy caps because the bill inadvertently restricted disabled seniors, stroke patients, and other severe cases from receiving therapy treatments.

Source: HR.1546&S829 11-HR1546 on Apr 14, 2011

Establish a public insurance option via healthcare Exchanges.

Richardson co-sponsored Public Option Deficit Reduction Act

Amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [PPACA, known as ObamaCare] to require Exchanges to offer a public health insurance option that ensures choice, competition, and stability of affordable, high-quality coverage throughout the United States. Declares that the primary responsibility is to create a low-cost plan without compromising quality or access to care. Sets forth provisions related to the establishment and governance of the public health insurance option, including that such plan:

  1. may be made available only through Exchanges;
  2. must comply with requirements applicable to other health benefits plans offered through such Exchanges; and
  3. must offer bronze, silver, and gold plan levels.
    Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to:
  1. establish an office of the ombudsman for the public health insurance option;
  2. collect such data as may be required to establish premiums and payment rates;
  3. establish geographically adjusted premiums at a level sufficient to fully finance the costs of the health benefits provided and administrative costs related to the operation of the plan; and
  4. establish payment rates and provide for greater payment rates for the first three years.
Requires repayment of start-up costs for the public health insurance option. Authorizes the Secretary to utilize innovative payment mechanisms and policies to determine payments for items and services under the public health insurance option.
Source: H.R.191 11-HR191 on Jan 5, 2011

Expand the National Health Service Corps.

Richardson signed Access for All America Act

    A bill to achieve access to comprehensive primary health care services for all Americans and to reform the organization of primary care delivery through an expansion of the Community Health Center and National Health Service Corps programs. Amends the Public Health Service Act to:
  1. increase and extend the authorization of appropriations for community health centers and for the National Health Service Corps scholarship and loan repayment program for FY2010-FY2015, and provide for increased funding for such programs in FY2016 and each subsequent fiscal year; and
  2. revise and expand provisions allowing a community health center to provide services at different locations, adjust its operating plan and budget, enter into arrangements with other centers to purchase supplies and services at reduced cost, and correct material failures in grant compliance.
Source: S.486&HR1296 2009-S486 on Mar 4, 2009

Make health care a right, not a privilege.

Richardson adopted the Progressive Caucus Position Paper:

    The Progressive Caucus is united in its goal of making health care a right, not a privilege. Every person should have access to affordable, comprehensive and high-quality medical care. We must use our health care dollars efficiently and ensure public accountability in all medical decisions. Based on this goal, we support the following principles:
  1. All Americans, including the 44 million currently without health insurance, deserve to have the health care they need, regardless of ability to pay.
  2. Medicare must remain solvent and available for the millions of seniors and individuals with disabilities who rely on the program. The Progressive Caucus supports expanding the program to cover prescription drugs and other needed products and services for beneficiaries. We support a Medicare buy-in for individuals age 55 and older. We support lowering out-of-pocket costs for seniors who currently pay, on average, 20% of their income for health care.
  3. Proposals should be rejected to change traditional Medicare from a defined benefit to a defined contribution or voucher system.
  4. Balanced Budget Act cuts that are negatively affecting patient access to hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies must be restored.
  5. Medicaid must have the resources to continue to provide coverage and care for low-income individuals, including children in the CHIP program.
  6. Individuals with disabilities should retain their health benefits when they return to work and to have access to rehabilitative and other needed services.
  7. Funding and outreach and other programs serving low-income Americans should be expanded. Examples of such programs are the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), Specified Low-income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB), and Qualified Individuals programs; transitional funds for Medicaid recipients who are also welfare-to-work recipients; and for HHS for mental health outreach for the elderly.
Source: CPC Position Paper: Health Care 99-CPC2 on Nov 11, 1999

2012 Governor, House and Senate candidates on Health Care: Laura Richardson on other issues:
CA Gubernatorial:
Antonio Villaraigosa
Jerry Brown
Jerry Sanders
CA Senatorial:
Barbara Boxer
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Retiring to run for other office:

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