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Jeff Merkley on Health Care

Democratic Jr Senator (OR)


I couldn't enroll in ObamaCare, but it'll eventually succeed

Sen. Jeff Merkley, holding the first of three town halls in the Portland area, defended the new federal health care law while also continuing to blame software giant Oracle for Oregon's health exchange problems. "Oracle botched it in a major way," Merkley said, as he referred to the continuing failures of the Cover Oregon website.

The senator said he still hasn't been able to finish enrolling his own family through Cover Oregon, although he said afterwards that he is still has insurance for the time being through his existing congressional plan. Under the new law, members of Congress are required to get their coverage through the exchanges.

Merkley said he continues to believe the new law is still on balance a positive because it has expanded coverage to large numbers of previously uninsured people. "We're going to have some success stories, we're going to have some failure stories," said Merkley. "We have to work on it."

Source: The Oregonian on 2014 Oregon Senate race , Jan 3, 2014

2009: "Keep your insurance"; 2014: fix ObamaCare so you can

Monica Wehby, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Senate, launched a web video that shows 4-year-old footage of Sen. Jeff Merkley promising constituents that they could still keep their existing health insurance under the new federal law.

Merkley acknowledged in November that he and other supporters of the new law did not foresee how it would fail to prevent a wave of cancellations of existing policies. The senator also joined other Democrats in sponsoring a bill that would allow consumers to keep existing policies if they wanted.

The new Wehby video features footage of a Sept. 4, 2009 town hall meeting in which Merkley said: "You would have the choice of sticking with the plan you have. If you like it, it will be absolutely there." The ad ends with a catchy slogan: "Keep your doctor. Change your senator."

A Merkley spokeswoman said that the senator has worked to fix problems with the new law rather than simply undo the new federal health care law.

Source: The Oregonian AdWatch on 2014 Oregon Senate race , Jan 2, 2014

AdWatch: Targeted by RNC robocalls for support of ObamaCare

Sen. Jeff Merkley is among 11 Democrats targeted by the Republican National Committee for their support of ObamaCare. The RNC is using robocalls and posting on Facebook to urge people to call their representatives and ask "why they supported President Obama's lie that people could keep their healthcare plans under ObamaCare."

The targets besides Merkley are Reps. Gary Peters (MI) and Bruce Braley (IA), Sens. Mark Warner (VA), Mark Begich (AK), Dick Durbin (IL), Kay Hagan (NC), Mary Landrieu (LA), Mark Pryor (AR), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Mark Udall (CO). The robocall script reads:

"President Obama and the Democrats said you could keep your healthcare plan under ObamaCare. Now we know [SENATOR] actually VOTED to make it more difficult. Call [SENATOR] at (XXX)-XXX-XXX & ask why [he/she] lied."

The robocalls are a response to Democrats launching the "GOP Shutdown Watch" campaign, highlighting Republican senate candidates who supported the partial federal government shutdown.

Source: MI Daily Tribune AdWatch: 2014 Oregon Senate debate , Nov 5, 2013

Address the nursing shortage

Jeff strongly supports the Capps Nurse Reinvestment Act and would sponsor similar legislation in the US Senate. This plan establishes a National Nurse Service Corps to provide educational scholarships to nurses that commit to serve in a health facility determined to have a critical shortage of nurses. Grants would also be available to help individuals at any level of the nursing profession-from a nursing aide to an individual pursuing a doctoral degree--obtaining more education. The bill also provides funding for public service announcements and supports nursing recruitment grants for educational facilities. In addition, it would expand Medicare and Medicaid funding for clinical nursing education and reimburses some home health agencies, hospices and nursing homes for nurse training.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website, www.jeffmerkley.com, “Issues” , Jun 3, 2008

Support Healthy Americans Act: universal comprehensive care

One of Jeff’s first acts as Oregon’s next US Senator will be to sign on as a cosponsor of Oregon Senator Wyden’s health care bill, the Healthy Americans Act. The Healthy Americans Act would guarantee every American universal, affordable, comprehensive, portable, high-quality health coverage that is as good or better than members of Congress have today.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website, www.jeffmerkley.com, “Issues” , Jun 3, 2008

Take on insurance & pharmaceutical companies

Jeff has fought to improve health care quality and access in Oregon. He’s ready to take on the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies to ensure that every American has access to affordable, quality health care coverage. It’s becoming more difficult for working families to pay for visits to the doctor and essential medicine. It’s unacceptable that some Americans are without health care. In the US Senate, Jeff will fight for universal access to affordable, quality health care coverage.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website, www.jeffmerkley.com, “Issues” , Jun 3, 2008

Provide affordable quality health care to all Americans

In twelve years Gordon Smith has failed to endorse any plan to make quality health care affordable. One of Merkley’s first acts as Oregon’s next US Senator will be to sign on as a co-sponsor of Senator Wyden’s Healthy American’s Act, which will guarantee every American universal, affordable, comprehensive, portable, high-quality health coverage that is as good or better than Members of Congress have today.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website, www.jeffmerkley.com, “Issues” , Jun 3, 2008

Fully fund the VA health care system

Veterans often are forced to wait months for an appointment to see a doctor, and very often they have to travel great distances for care because there are too few facilities to provide effective treatment. The disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are symptomatic of a system-wide problem that must be addressed immediately.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website, www.jeffmerkley.com, “Issues” , Jun 3, 2008

Provide children with the health care they need

Provide children with the health care they need: healthy children learn better. Every American child deserves health care. Healthy children miss less school days and learn better overall.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website, www.jeffmerkley.com, “Issues” , Jun 3, 2008

Health care for all Americans

Health Care for All Americans: Every American deserves to be in control of their own health security, without fear of losing coverage or of not being able to find a doctor. Our representatives in Congress ought to be looking out for the health security of all Oregonians. Read more.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website, www.jeffmerkley.com, “Issues” , Mar 2, 2008

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.
Status: Failed 40-57

Reference: Ryan Budget Plan; Bill HCR34&SCR21 ; vote number 11-SV077 on May 25, 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-S207 on Jun 11, 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-S031 on Jan 29, 2009

Merge Alzheimers diagnosis and care benefit.

Merkley co-sponsored HOPE for Alzheimer's Act

Congressional Summary:The purpose of this Act is to increase diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, leading to better care and outcomes for Americans living with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Congress makes the following findings:

  1. As many as half of the estimated 5.2 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease have never received a diagnosis.
  2. An early and documented diagnosis and access to care planning services leads to better outcomes for individuals with Alzheimer's disease.
  3. Combining the existing Medicare benefits of a diagnostic evaluation and care planning into a single package of services would help ensure that individuals receive an appropriate diagnosis as well as critical information about the disease and available care options.

Proponent's argument for bill: (The Alzheimer's Association, alz.org). The "Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer's Act" (S.709/H.R. 1507) is one of the Alzheimer's Association's top federal priorities for the 113th Congress. The HOPE for Alzheimer's Act would improve diagnosis of Alzheimer's diseas

Source: S.709/H.R. 1507 13-S0709 on Apr 11, 2013

Expand the National Health Service Corps.

Merkley 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

Other candidates on Health Care: Jeff Merkley on other issues:
OR Gubernatorial:
John Kitzhaber
OR Senatorial:
Jason Conger
Monica Wehby
Ron Wyden

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Retiring in 2014 election:
GA:Chambliss(R)
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MI:Levin(D)
MT:Baucus(D)
NE:Johanns(R)
SD:Johnson(D)
WV:Rockefeller(D)

Retired as of Jan. 2013:
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MT:Baucus(D)
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Senate races Nov. 2014:
AK: Begich(D) vs.Miller(R) vs.Treadwell(R) vs.Sullivan(R)
AL: Sessions(R,unopposed)
AR: Pryor(D) vs.Cotton(R)
CO: Udall(D) vs.Gardner(R) vs.Baumgardner(R) vs.Buck(R) vs.Hill(R) vs.Stephens(R)
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IA: Braley(D) vs.Ernst(R) vs.Whitaker(R) vs.Clovis(R)
ID: Risch(R) vs.Mitchell(D)
IL: Durbin(D) vs.Oberweis(R) vs.Hansen(L) vs.Truax(R)
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Page last updated: Aug 07, 2014