Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), spoke from the floor of the U.S. Senate today as the Senate moved closer to passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Senator Cardin discussed the benefits in the bill to Marylanders and all Americans. He also outlined key amendment he authored, including strengthening the Patients’ Bill of Rights provisions and codifying an Office of Minority Health in key federal health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health, as well as the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The full text of Senator Cardin’s floor statement are available at cardin.senate.gov.
“For the 23 years that I have been in Congress, I’ve told the people of Maryland that I’m going to fight to change our health care system so that every American has access to affordable, quality health care. We’re going to take a giant step forward to reaching that goal by passing the legislation that we have before us today.
“I have been asked by many in recent days as to what’s in it for the people of Maryland? What are they going to get out of this? Well, the people of Maryland are going to get a national health care system that makes a lot more sense, a rational system for care in America.
“The Congressional Budget Office tells us that we’re going to have 98% of all Americans covered by insurance. That’s universal. We’re going to have a framework so that — at long last — America joins every other industrial nation in the world with a health care system where everyone is included. The Congressional Budget Office, the objective scorekeeper, also says that for the overwhelming majority of Americans, their health premiums will go down. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also says that this bill will reduce the federal deficit by $132 billion — that’s a “b,” billion.
“Today in America, too many people fall through the cracks. Too many people, families are literally destroyed because they can’t afford access to health care and therefore they don’t get the tests that they need, and perhaps a disease that could have been caught earlier, prevented is lost and the person has to go through tremendous health care treatment, perhaps even losing their life.
“Our Medicare beneficiaries also are finding their program under attack. They want to have the stability of knowing that Medicare will be there, not just this year but for the decades to come. This bill starts to reform Medicare by reforming health care so that we can sustain it and to fill in the prescription drug doughnut hole which so many seniors are finding it very difficult to afford their medicines.
“For the people of Maryland, this bill is going to provide a rational way in which they can maintain their existing coverage and find it more affordable. To me, this is a moral issue. It is an issue of whether health care is a privilege or a right. I believe that the values of America teach us that health care should be a right for all Americans, and the bill that we will be voting on will take us very close to achieving that goal.”
PATIENTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS
“I think the people of this nation would be surprised to find out that we haven’t yet enacted the Patients’ Bill of Rights. I’m pleased that the managers’ amendment added important provisions that’s I authored that I’ve been working with Democrats and Republicans over the last decade to get in federal law.
“Today, there are people who live in New Mexico and live in Montana and live in Maryland who go to their emergency rooms and then they read the fine print of their insurance plan. They say, well, before you go to an insurance room, you’ve got to call for preauthorization. Or you need to go to the emergency that’s in network. Or we may second guess whether you really needed to go to that emergency room. We now are going to cover access to emergency care as a requirement for every private insurance company. We will have prudent lay person’s standards and no preauthorizations. If you are in medical distress, your coverage at the closest emergency room will be protected by federal law.
“Also included in my amendment is the ability to choose your primary care doctor. Your primary care doctor is a person you should have confidence in. If you’re a woman and you want it to be OB/GYN, you should have that right. If you’re a parent and want a pediatrician, you should have a pediatrician. This legislation will make sure that those protections are in law.”
“Today our health care delivery system in America has huge disparities among different ethnic communities. African-Americans, for example, their life expectancy is 5.3 years lower than whites. The incidents of diabetes are two times greater among minorities than the general population. And African-Americans have 33% more deaths due to heart disease. We need to have a national strategy to reach out to minority communities to define and address their special needs.”
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act codifies the Office of Minority Health in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, as well as other agencies including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Health, Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It also elevates the Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities at NIH to an Institute.