December 08, 2009

Mr. President, I am so pleased this morning to join my freshman colleagues in introducing our innovation and value package.

For the last several months, the freshmen in the Senate have been coming to the floor to help make the case for health care reform, to tell our colleagues and the public about what we have heard from our constituents, and to come together as one voice in support of reform.

Today, we back up that rhetoric with action. Today, we propose something concrete. We have talked about the importance of reforming the way we deliver care, about how we need to slow down the skyrocketing costs of health care, while improving quality, and about the need to provide incentives to make the changes happen. Today, we deliver on that talk. Our proposals are about containing costs, about looking into the future, thinking about our delivery system, and finding ways to make small but very important changes that will make a difference.

Throughout this debate, I have been talking about the importance of increasing the quality of care while reducing the cost. This amendment package does just that.

This amendment package matters. It matters to all the health care consumers who are interested in reducing costs and increasing the value in our health care system. It especially matters to business. The high cost of health care and insurance coverage eats away at the bottom line for businesses. If we can reduce waste and inefficiency, attack fraud, and simplify our system, we can reduce costs. The innovations in this package attract business because business understands that we need to take steps in our public and private health care systems to lower costs and deliver value.

I am proud that, with this amendment, we are able to promote the good work of Elliot Fisher and his colleagues at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and to recognize the work they have done on accountable care organizations.

Accountable care organizations are about coordinating care among providers--hospitals, primary care physicians, specialists, and other medical professionals. These accountable care organizations make decisions with patients. I think that is the operative phrase. They make decisions ``with'' patients about what steps they can take together to improve care. When these efforts result in cost and quality improvements, providers and consumers can share in the savings. This is the essence of true reform. We must demand performance, quality, and value from our health care system. This package makes great strides.

I will close by thanking all of my fellow freshmen. I am so proud to be part of this freshman class and all of the great work they have done.

I especially wish to recognize Senator Warner, who has really been the driving force behind this health care package. I am not sure I agree with his cell phone analysis, but I certainly agree with the leadership he has shown on this package.

Also, I recognize our senior colleagues, Senators Dodd, Baucus, Reid, and Harkin, for the leadership they have shown in getting us to this point.

Finally, I recognize all of the staff of all of us freshman Senators, many of whom are here today, who have worked so hard to get us to this point. I single out my assistants, Alison MacDonald and Dr. Manny Jimenez, for the work they have done on this package. It is a great effort, and I am pleased to be here with my fellow freshmen.

I urge all of our colleagues to join us in support of this effort.

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