SHAHEEN CALLS ON SENATE TO DEBATE HEALTH CARE LEGISLATION

November 19, 2009

Thank you very much, Madam President.

I rise to join my colleague, Senator Bennet from Colorado, to express my strong support for moving forward to consider the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

My office has responded to thousands of letters and phone calls about health care since we began this debate. I have traveled all across my home State of New Hampshire, talked to small business owners, talked to families who are desperate for help and to health care providers who are frustrated with our current system. Time and time again, what we have heard is that our health care system is not working. Costs are too high. Access is too limited. The status quo is not sustainable.

Now is the time to act. To put it very simply, our health care system is too expensive for families, for workers, for business owners, and for our Nation's economy. I think Senator Bennet laid out very clearly why, if we are going to be fiscally responsible, we have to address health care reform now. It is critical for the Senate to act.

I thank Majority Leader Reid and Senators Baucus, Dodd, and Harkin, who have led the effort to bring forward the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This is a very good starting point, and contrary to what we have heard, it incorporates many of the changes that have been offered by our Republican colleagues over these past months we have been working on health care.

This bill will help ensure Americans have greater access to quality affordable health care, and it will help begin the transformation within the health care system that is necessary if we are going to contain costs to accomplish the fiscal improvements Senator Bennet talked about.

I think particularly important is the fact that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is fully paid for, so it will not increase the deficit one dime. In fact, by eliminating waste, fraud, and inefficiencies, by doing a more cost-effective job of providing health care, the bill is projected to reduce the deficit by almost $130 billion over the next 10 years. That is what I want to talk about this afternoon--some of those ways in which we can provide health care more cost-effectively and also improve health outcomes for people.

Research shows us that spending on health care does not necessarily translate into better health care. I am proud of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy, which is in my home State of New Hampshire, because it has been leading the way on some of this important research. What Dartmouth's research shows us is that when patients are engaged in their treatment decisions, they will choose the less invasive and less costly procedures 40 percent of the time. So almost half of the time, we know patients, when they are involved, are going to choose the less costly procedures--not only that, they are going to be happier about those treatment decisions. We know, based on this research, that the health care system can do better in so many cases for less and that we can recoup savings in our system.

One example of that, which I have worked hard on, along with Senator Collins from Maine, is something we call the Medicare Transitional Care Act. Experts estimate that we can save $5,000 per Medicare beneficiary if we can reduce costly readmissions. That is what our work shows. Medicare costs can be reduced and we can offer better support and coordination of care to Medicare patients if we keep seniors who are discharged from the hospital from unnecessarily returning. We know that 30 percent of seniors who are discharged from the hospital, who are on Medicare, are going to get readmitted within 90 days because we do not do a

good job of providing for that transition. If we add a benefit through Medicare that helps with that transition, we have a commonsense solution that will improve the quality of health care for our seniors and save taxpayers money. I am very pleased that this provision is included in the health care bill that is before us now or that we hope will be before us soon.

We can also contain health care costs by improving access to lower cost generic drugs. Again, that is something that is in the health care reform bill we are going to be considering. It gives people access to those lower cost generic drugs in a way that saves, generally, anywhere from 25 to 35 percent for generic drugs. It also sets up a process to give people access to lower cost biologic drugs--something we do not yet have, the ability to set up a process to give people access to generic biologics. So that is going to be able to save people money.

This legislation we hope to be able to work on will help Americans access lower cost medications. It will save taxpayers money. This is our opportunity to improve the quality of care available to Americans and to control costs at the same time.

It is critical we achieve this for the citizens of New Hampshire and for all Americans. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a very important step forward. I hope all my colleagues will, as we debate this bill, look at the important changes we are making and decide this is our opportunity to get real, meaningful health care reform done.

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