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Health Care

The Need for Reform

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t worry about health care. Whether it is a parent of a child who needs it, a senior who depends upon it, a business person paying for it, or a medical professional providing it - concerns about health care are growing daily. Can we afford it? Will it be there when we need it? What does the future hold?

Health care is becoming too expensive for many families and small businesses and the one size fits all solution that is known as Obamacare is only driving prices higher. Even with the passage of Obamacare, Americans still lack health insurance coverage and face rising out of pocket costs if they are covered.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country; one out of every four people in Texas continue to live without health insurance.  Others who do have coverage pay $1,500 more a year for those who don’t. Our country faces a terrible shortage of nurses and other medical professionals. Medical mistakes are costing lives and billions of dollars a year.

There are sensible solutions to these problems; we just have to show the will to provide affordable access to all Americans. I support tax credits and savings accounts that put patients and doctors back in the control of health care decisions. You and your doctors are best able to make decisions about the health of you and your family. And health care should be portable – so you can keep your same coverage and your same doctor when you move from job to job.

But partisan fighting in Washington, together with the sheer size and complexity of the problem, has grid-locked Congress. Few new ideas are being discussed, and lawmakers keep placing band-aids on our problems instead of facing surgery.

As Republicans continue to fight to repeal bad health care legislation, we also continue to work on ways to increase health care accessibility and affordability for all Americans.
Below are some of the healthcare initiatives I am fighting for in Washington:

Repealing Obamacare

Do you want this maze between you and your health care? Neither do I. That’s why I will continue to fight this flawed law until it is fully repealed.  From the beginning I have strongly opposed, and fought against, Obamacare. The House of Representatives has voted well over 50 times to repeal, defund, and delay various parts of the law.  A summary of these legislative actions can be viewed here[i1] .

The key to making health care more affordable lies with increasing competition and eliminating unnecessary overhead costs on the system, not with a new government takeover of the health care system.

Modernizing Medicare

Medicare is a critically important health care program but it faces insolvency in a short 15 years. As Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, I have laid out a three step process make Medicare sustainable for the long term. Republicans and Democrats need to work together, to act now to save Medicare for the long term. Our seniors and future Americans are counting on us.

In 2015, Congress acted successfully to achieve the first important step in saving Medicare by solving the way Medicare pays[i2]  local doctors. For step two, the Ways & Means Committee is already hard at work on improving the way Medicare pays our health care providers such as hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation hospitals and other post-acute services for seniors. And now we will turn our attention to the third and final step to saving Medicare for the long term which is offering better and smarter personalized Medicare options for seniors. None of this is easy, but it’s critical if we want to keep the promise of Medicare for another 50 years.

Reducing Regulatory Burdens and Increasing Transparency

I’m not satisfied yet that we’ve subtracted enough regulation from our health care system. In my view, when it comes to Washington bureaucrats it’s always about addition, never about subtraction. I want to find ways to reduce the burden on our providers and increase transparency for consumers.

H.R. 2507[i3] , the Increasing Regulatory Fairness Act, extends the public notice period from 45 days to 60 days, which would mean an extension of the comment period from 15 days to 30 days. This bill passed the House of Representatives on June 17, 2015.

Typically, every year, CMS sends out what is called a “rate notice” to plans and Medicare Advantage companies that detail the various payment rates and benefit changes that the agency plans to make for the following plan year. This notice follows the standard rulemaking process of other payment systems – that is, a draft notice is published, the public has a certain amount of time to submit comments and questions, and then the agency publishes a final notice based on that feedback. Right now, this current process takes about 45 days, but the public only has 15 days to comment. As Medicare Advantage policy becomes more complex and more beneficiaries enroll in the program, greater time for outside review and analysis improves the transparency of the process.

Shouldn’t our local seniors have the best options in health care? It was essential to provide more time for comment to ensure the Medicare Advantage program continues to provide low-cost, competitive health insurance options to our local seniors. Congress must work together to strengthen and preserve the Medicare Advantage program for the millions of seniors that rely on it for their health insurance and protect the program for future generations.

Restoring Fairness in Healthcare

H.R. 1479[i4] , the Repeal of the Obamacare Bay State Boondoggle Act, a bill that would readjust the Medicare hospital wage index program to a state-specific calculation, rather than a national calculation.

Due to a sweetheart deal in the Affordable Care Act, known as the Bay State Boondoggle, hospitals in Massachusetts are receiving hundreds of millions of dollars each year at the expense of other hospitals across the country. In the previous Congress, this bill garnered 80 cosponsors and the Senate passed a bipartisan amendment (McCaskill-D, Baldwin-D and Coburn-R) to repeal this sweetheart deal as part of its 2014 budget. Congress must ensure hospitals and medical providers are compensated fairly so that health care providers continue to provide high quality health care to our seniors. It is time to stop rewarding one state at the expense of others.

Supporting Research for Rare Diseases and Ensuring Safe Access to Life-Saving Medicines

I understand the need to invest in our health care innovation infrastructure. By doing so, we can provide the resources researchers need to continue studying next generation treatments and bring hope to patients, their families, and their caregivers.

H.R. 880, the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015, a bill that simplifies and strengthens the R&D tax credit. This bill passed the House of Representatives on May 20, 2015.

America is the world’s leading innovator, developing life-saving technologies, state-of-the-art computer systems, and breakthrough manufacturing products but we are losing ground to competitors around the world. The U.S. share of global research and development has fallen from 39 percent in 1999 to 31 percent in 2014, but that China’s increased fourfold during the same time period. We are in danger of China’s R&D spending surpassing the United States’ by 2022. That’s just not acceptable.

Under this legislation, the R&D tax credit would apply equally to all companies that perform research and development in the United States. It is strengthened and modernized by increasing the alternative simplified credit rate to 20 percent from 14 percent, allowing companies to increase their current R&D spending, while attracting new R&D spending, which will help create new jobs and spur health care innovation.

H.R.3520[i5]  , the Pulmonary Hypertension Research and Diagnosis Act of 2015, which directs the Department of Health and Human Services to create an interagency committee to coordinate all efforts within the Department concerning pulmonary hypertension.

Pulmonary hypertension is a serious and often fatal rare disease where the blood pressure in the lungs rises to dangerously high levels. In PH patients, the walls of the arteries that take blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs thicken and constrict. Over 100,000 Americans suffer from this devastating condition, which predominately strikes young women.

Learn more about PH and how you can help.

H.R.1845, the Medicare IVIG Access Act, would give Medicare the authority to adjust payment for IVIG to reflect the true costs of administering it. This bill was signed into law on January 1, 2013.

There are approximately 10,000 Medicare beneficiaries living with primary immune deficiency disease (PIDD), a disease that leaves the patient unable to produce protective antibodies or to develop immunity to help the body fight serious infections.

Consequently, PIDD patients require regular infusions of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) in order to maintain their health and fight disease. Unfortunately, changes in Medicare reimbursement policy have had the unintended consequence of limiting many beneficiaries access to this lifesaving treatment. Now patients must go to the hospital to receive treatment instead of in their own home – and for a patient with a compromised immune system, a hospital is like a death trap.

If you are a health care professional and have suggestions for reducing regulation, modernizing Medicare or incentivizing innovation please send your ideas to healthcaresolutions@mail.house.gov.

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