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Ken Salazar on Health Care

Democratic Jr Senator (CO)


Take next steps toward universal coverage

As your United States Senator, my priorities will be to look at innovative ways to reduce health care costs, make health insurance more affordable, provide health care to the uninsured, lower prescription drug costs, and tackle the unique health care challenges of rural Colorado and elsewhere.
Source: 2004 Senate campaign website, SalazarForColorado.com , Aug 11, 2004

Allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices

“Allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies-amazingly enough, expressly banned by Congress in last year’s Medicare overhaul law,” should also help drive down the costs of prescription drugs in the near term,“ Salazar added. ”The Department of Veterans Affairs has been able to successfully negotiate for lower drug prices.“
Source: Attorney General’s office News Release, “Rx Drugs” , May 5, 2004

Allow reimportation of prescription drugs

Attorney General Ken Salazar and 19 fellow attorneys general urged the federal government to take steps to allow for the safe importation of prescription drugs to help relieve the financial burden of millions of Americans and state governments as a result of the explosive growth in the cost of prescription medications.

“I support lifting the federal ban on importation of prescription drugs, as just one way to address the high cost of prescription drugs that Americans and their governments are paying,“ Salazar said. ”This is just one approach to doing so. I believe [we should additionally] explore any other ideas to allow the safe importation of prescription drugs.“

Under the plan, licensed pharmacists and wholesalers could import drugs from Canada. Importers would have to document the chain of custody using new technology to deter counterfeiters. Individuals could import 90-day supplies of medicine from Canada for personal use from Canadian pharmacies inspected and approved by the FDA.

Source: Attorney General’s office News Release, “Rx Drugs” , May 5, 2004

Medicare Rx bill was a mistake; need innovations

My priority will be to look at innovative ways to reduce health care costs. I support allowing lower cost drug imports from Canada, and we should give the federal government the power to bargain for lower prescription drug prices. It was a mistake to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare but not allow Medicare to use the bargaining power of its millions of beneficiaries to get the lowest possible prices. I am committed to looking at all possible ways to lower health care costs.
Source: 2004 Senate campaign website, SalazarForColorado.com , Mar 10, 2004

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-S177 on Jul 15, 2008

Voted NO on means-testing to determine Medicare Part D premium.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To require wealthy Medicare beneficiaries to pay a greater share of their Medicare Part D premiums.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES: Sen. ENSIGN: This amendment is to means test Medicare Part D the same way we means test Medicare Part B. An individual senior making over $82,000 a year, or a senior couple making over $164,000, would be expected to pay a little over $10 a month extra. That is all we are doing. This amendment saves a couple billion dollars over the next 5 years. It is very reasonable. There is nothing else in this budget that does anything on entitlement reform, and we all know entitlements are heading for a train wreck in this country. We ought to at least do this little bit for our children for deficit reduction.

OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. BAUCUS: The problem with this amendment is exactly what the sponsor said: It is exactly like Part B. Medicare Part B is a premium that is paid with respect to doctors' examinations and Medicare reimbursement. Part D is the drug benefit. Part D premiums vary significantly nationwide according to geography and according to the plans offered. It is nothing like Part B.

Second, any change in Part D is required to be in any Medicare bill if it comes up. We may want to make other Medicare changes. We don't want to be restricted to means testing.

Third, this should be considered broad health care reform, at least Medicare reform, and not be isolated in this case. LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 42-56

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4240 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S063 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted NO on allowing tribal Indians to opt out of federal healthcare.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:
    TRIBAL MEMBER CHOICE PROGRAM: Members of federally-recognized Indian Tribes shall be provided the opportunity to voluntarily enroll, with a risk-adjusted subsidy for the purchase of qualified health insurance in order to--
  1. improve Indian access to high quality health care services;
  2. provide incentives to Indian patients to seek preventive health care services;
  3. create opportunities for Indians to participate in the health care decision process;
  4. encourage effective use of health care services by Indians; and
  5. allow Indians to make health care coverage & delivery decisions & choices.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. COBURN: The underlying legislation, S.1200, does not fix the underlying problems with tribal healthcare. It does not fix rationing. It does not fix waiting lines. It does not fix the inferior quality that is being applied to a lot of Native Americans and Alaskans in this country. It does not fix any of those problems. In fact, it authorizes more services without making sure the money is there to follow it.

Those who say a failure to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act is a violation of our trust obligations are correct. However, I believe simply reauthorizing this system with minor modifications is an even greater violation of that commitment.

OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. DORGAN: It is not more money necessarily that is only going to solve the problem. But I guarantee you that less money will not solve the problem. If you add another program for other Indians who can go somewhere else and be able to present a card, they have now taken money out of the system and purchased their own insurance--then those who live on the reservation with the current Indian Health Service clinic there has less money. How does that work to help the folks who are stranded with no competition?

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 28-67

Reference: Tribal Member Choice Program; Bill SA.4034 to SA.3899 to S.1200 ; vote number 08-S025 on Feb 14, 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 2007-403 on Nov 1, 2007

Voted YES on requiring negotiated Rx prices for Medicare part D.

Would require negotiating with pharmaceutical manufacturers the prices that may be charged to prescription drug plan sponsors for covered Medicare part D drugs.

Proponents support voting YES because:

This legislation is an overdue step to improve part D drug benefits. The bipartisan bill is simple and straightforward. It removes the prohibition from negotiating discounts with pharmaceutical manufacturers, and requires the Secretary of Health & Human Services to negotiate. This legislation will deliver lower premiums to the seniors, lower prices at the pharmacy and savings for all taxpayers.

It is equally important to understand that this legislation does not do certain things. HR4 does not preclude private plans from getting additional discounts on medicines they offer seniors and people with disabilities. HR4 does not establish a national formulary. HR4 does not require price controls. HR4 does not hamstring research and development by pharmaceutical houses. HR4 does not require using the Department of Veterans Affairs' price schedule.

Opponents support voting NO because:

Does ideological purity trump sound public policy? It shouldn't, but, unfortunately, it appears that ideology would profoundly change the Medicare part D prescription drug program, a program that is working well, a program that has arrived on time and under budget. The changes are not being proposed because of any weakness or defect in the program, but because of ideological opposition to market-based prices. Since the inception of the part D program, America's seniors have had access to greater coverage at a lower cost than at any time under Medicare.

Under the guise of negotiation, this bill proposes to enact draconian price controls on pharmaceutical products. Competition has brought significant cost savings to the program. The current system trusts the marketplace, with some guidance, to be the most efficient arbiter of distribution.
Status: Cloture rejected Cloture vote rejected, 55-42 (3/5ths required)

Reference: Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act; Bill S.3 & H.R.4 ; vote number 2007-132 on Apr 18, 2007

Voted NO on limiting medical liability lawsuits to $250,000.

A "cloture motion" cuts off debate. Voting YEA indicates support for the bill as written, in this case to cap medical liability lawsuits. Voting NAY indicates opposition to the bill or a desire to amend it. This bill would "provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system." It would limit medical lawsuit noneconomic damages to $250,000 from the health care provider, and no more than $500,000 from multiple health care institutions.
Reference: Medical Care Access Protection Act; Bill S. 22 ; vote number 2006-115 on May 8, 2006

Voted YES on expanding enrollment period for Medicare Part D.

To provide for necessary beneficiary protections in order to ensure access to coverage under the Medicare part D prescription drug program. Voting YES would extend the 6-month enrollment period for the Prescription Drug Benefit Program to the entire year of 2006 and allows beneficiaries to change plans once in that year, without penalty, after enrollment. Also would fully reimburse pharmacies, states and individuals for cost in 2006 for covered Medicare Part D drugs.
Reference: Medicare Part D Amendment; Bill S Amdt 2730 to HR 4297 ; vote number 2006-005 on Feb 2, 2006

Voted YES on increasing Medicaid rebate for producing generics.

Vote on an amendment that removes an increase in the Medicaid deduction rebate for generic drugs from 11% to 17%. The effect of the amendment, according to its sponsor, is as follows: "This bill eliminates the ability of generic drugs to be sold using Medicaid. Over half the prescription drugs used in Medicaid are generic. Because we have raised the fees so dramatically on what a generic drug company must pay a pharmacy to handle the drug, pharmacies are not going to use the generic. In the long run, that will cost the Medicaid Program billions of dollars. My amendment corrects that situation." A Senator opposing the amendment said: "This bill has in it already very significant incentives for generic utilization through the way we reimburse generics. Brand drugs account for 67% of Medicaid prescriptions, but they also account for 81% of the Medicaid rebates. This is reasonable policy for us, then, to create parity between brand and generic rebates. This amendment would upset that parity."
Reference: Amendment for Medicaid rebates for generic drugs; Bill S Amdt 2348 to S 1932 ; vote number 2005-299 on Nov 3, 2005

Voted YES on negotiating bulk purchases for Medicare prescription drug.

Vote to adopt an amendment that would allow federal government negotiations with prescription drug manufactures for the best possible prescription drug prices. Amendment details: To ensure that any savings associated with legislation that provides the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the authority to participate in the negotiation of contracts with manufacturers of covered part D drugs to achieve the best possible prices for such drugs under Medicare Part D of the Social Security Act, that requires the Secretary to negotiate contracts with manufacturers of such drugs for each fallback prescription drug plan, and that requires the Secretary to participate in the negotiation for a contract for any such drug upon the request of a prescription drug plan or an MA-PD plan, is reserved for reducing expenditures under such part.
Reference: Prescription Drug Amendment; Bill S.Amdt. 214 to S.Con.Res. 18 ; vote number 2005-60 on Mar 17, 2005

Establish a national childhood cancer database.

Salazar co-sponsored establishing a national childhood cancer database

Conquer Childhood Cancer Act of 2007 - A bill to advance medical research and treatments into pediatric cancers, ensure patients and families have access to the current treatments and information regarding pediatric cancers, establish a population-based national childhood cancer database, and promote public awareness of pediatric cancers.

    Authorizes the Secretary to award grants to childhood cancer professional and direct service organizations for the expansion and widespread implementation of:
  1. activities that provide information on treatment protocols to ensure early access to the best available therapies and clinical trials for pediatric cancers;
  2. activities that provide available information on the late effects of pediatric cancer treatment to ensure access to necessary long-term medical and psychological care; and
  3. direct resource services such as educational outreach for parents, information on school reentry and postsecondary education, and resource directories or referral services for financial assistance, psychological counseling, and other support services.
Legislative Outcome: House version H.R.1553; became Public Law 110-285 on 7/29/2008.
Source: Conquer Childhood Cancer Act (S911/HR1553) 07-S911 on Mar 19, 2007

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Page last updated: Jul 12, 2013