March 29, 2010

(Concord, N.H.)-U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today held a press conference applauding the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and highlighting the health insurance reforms that take immediate effect, including preventing health insurance companies from dropping someone's coverage when they get sick, denying coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, and setting lifetime and annual limits on coverage.  At the press conference, Shaheen was joined by Dr. Nancy Van Vranken, Pediatrician, Dartmouth-Hitchcock; Rachel Rouillard, mother of a child with a pre-existing condition; and Sandra Burt, a Medicare beneficiary who has been affected by the prescription drug "donut hole."

"After decades of trying, we have finally reformed our health care system to put the health and well-being of children, seniors, and families above the bottom line of insurance companies," said Shaheen.  "This legislation will put a stop to insurance company abuses and make prescription drugs more affordable.  Many of these benefits will go into effect this year, and as this legislation is fully implemented, families, small businesses, and seniors will receive more and more help."

"For our family, this legislation is going to change the course of Will's life.  He will get the care he needs now, and we won't have to worry about future coverage," said Rachel Rouillard of Durham, whose son, Will, has cystic hygroma.  "For all families of kids who have critical health conditions, this change in law will alleviate the immediate hardships you face when your child needs care."

In the next year, individuals in New Hampshire will benefit from insurance market reforms that put an end to some of the harshest practices of the insurance industry.  Under the health care reform legislation signed into law this week by President Obama:

  • Access to affordable coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions;
  • An end to insurance coverage denials for children with pre-existing conditions;
  • Access to re-insurance for employer health plans providing coverage for early retirees;
  • Access to tax credits for qualifying small businesses to purchase health insurance for their employees;
  • A guaranteed 50 percent price discount on brand name drugs and biologics purchased by low and middle-income Medicare beneficiaries that fall within the "donut hole;"
  • An end to lifetime limits on benefits and will restrict the use of annual limits;
  • An extension of dependent coverage, permitting children to stay on family policies until age 26; and
  • Coverage of prevention and wellness benefits.

Also included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are four Shaheen authored measures that will reduce costs while improving care for millions of Americans. The Shaheen measures included in the bill are:

  • Access to Affordable Medicines Act - increases access to lower-cost generic drugs by closing a loophole used by brand name drug companies to delay generic drugs from entering the market.
  • The Medicare Transitional Care Act -reduces preventable hospital readmission of Medicare beneficiaries. The health care reform bill provides for a pilot program where a qualified transitional care clinician would ensure that appropriate follow-up care is provided during the vulnerable time after discharge from a hospital.
  • Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) - a concept championed by Dr. Elliott Fisher of Dartmouth, ACOs are groups of providers held responsible for the quality and cost of health care for their patients. The Shaheen provision would expand ACOs and allow them to work with private plans to align Medicare, Medicaid, and private sector strategies for improving care.
  • Comparative Effectiveness Research - compares different treatments and identifies those that are most effective. Shaheen's provision allows for open dissemination of valuable, unbiased information on how to deliver high-quality, low cost care to doctors and patients.

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