There is no question that the cost of and access to quality health care are critically important issues to individuals, families and businesses across Utah. Congressman Matheson knows that system wide, health care costs are the largest driver of federal government debt and deficit spending and that the current path is unsustainable. As a country, we simply cannot continue to allow health care costs to grow more rapidly than our economy as a whole without threatening our long term financial stability.
During the past couple of years, citizens, experts, and elected officials across our country have discussed and debated how we should reform our health care system. This conversation has at times been heated, but has also encouraged millions of Americans to speak their minds and to engage in the political process. As a starting point, most everyone agrees that something has to be done to lower health care cost inflation and to allow affordable access to insurance and care for those who want to pay for it, but have found it beyond their reach. Congressman Matheson voted against Obamacare for this reason: because it did not include the kind of real changes that will put our country on a path to economic stability. While the United States has the most technologically advanced health care system in the world, he believes that we cannot simply add to an economically unsustainable system. As a country, we need to look for common sense solutions that provide for quality, affordable health care with an eye toward long-term fiscal responsibility.
As a member of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Matheson has prioritized working across the aisle to repeal parts of the healthcare law that simply don’t work for our country. He has supported good ideas that work for American families and advocated to eliminate programs that do not save money or impose bureaucratic or regulatory burdens on health care consumers. Matheson has worked to expand tax credits for individuals and employers to purchase health insurance and supports more opportunity for small businesses to pool together to provide benefits for employees. He also feels strongly that medical malpractice reform is a way to help control costs and prevent doctors from feeling compelled to practice “defensive medicine” out of fear of being sued.
The Affordable Care Act
Congressman Matheson has always had strong concerns about the Affordable Care Act and its implementation. He voted against this law, commonly called Obamacare, both in the Energy and Commerce Committee and both times it was considered before the whole House of Representatives. We have since learned more about inadequacies in the law, including that it does not do enough to address the growing costs of healthcare, and in several instances may actually increase costs to patients and consumers. For that reason, Congressman Matheson also supports repealing the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. Most recently he supported H.R. 45, a full repeal of the legislation. As we continue to debate the future of the law, Congressman Matheson believes Members of Congress must work together in a bipartisan manner to make thoughtful chances even if it means changing one part of the law at a time.
To that end, Congressman Matheson also supports the repeal of numerous individual provisions of the Affordable Care Act. He has introduced bipartisan legislation with his Republican colleagues that would repeal the Health Insurance Tax (H.R.763). This tax, which unfairly affects small employers, increases health insurance premiums for employers and consumers alike. Additionally, he cosponsored legislation that would repeal the tax imposed on manufacturers of medical devices (H.R. 523). Utah is home to many medical device manufacturers, and this provision would harm the innovation and job creation they bring to our state.
Obamacare also established the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB), which is charged with making cuts to Medicare. IPAB places the decision-making power of Medicare benefits and reimbursements in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. These individuals would examine only short-term “savings” to Medicare, which could negatively affect beneficiary access to care. In order to bring Medicare spending under control, Congress must tackle long-term and system-wide issues within the program, such as reducing fraud and abuse. Congressman Matheson has strong concerns about IPAB, and has cosponsored legislation (H.R. 351) that would repeal it.
Short of full repeal, Congress must remain committed to addressing the most costly and ineffective parts of to fix the Affordable Care Act, those sections that can be improved, and removing those sections that cannot be fixed.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for the elderly and the disabled, providing health coverage to more than 270,000 Utahns statewide. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of all people on Medicare (47%) live on incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. Medicare has four parts: Part A, which covers inpatient services such as hospital and skilled nursing facility stays; Part B, which covers outpatient services like physician visits and preventive services; Part C, the Medicare Advantage Program; and Part D, the Prescription Drug Benefit. While the program is vitally important to seniors, its excessive growth in costs is one of the main contributors to our nation’s long term debt challenge. Congressman Matheson believes we must work in a bipartisan way to continue this program by increasing efficiency and removing perverse incentives in the program as well as lowering the long-term cost trajectory that inhibits the long term sustainability of this program.
Medicaid is a public health insurance program for low-income individuals and children. It covers more than 60 million Americans, including children, pregnant women, and the elderly. The program is the largest source of assistance for nursing home and community-based long-term care and also provides health insurance to 1 in 3 children. Congressman Matheson believes that Medicaid is an important program which covers vulnerable populations but reforms are needed to give states more flexibility in the management of this program to ensure solvency moving forward.
State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a Federal and State partnership that provides money to states to enroll children from working class families in privately-run health care plans. Congressman Matheson believes it is our duty to provide quality healthcare to children so they can grow, learn, and thrive. Statistics show that kids who have health insurance—the doorway to improved access to care---have a better quality of life, do better in school and grow to be more productive members of society. Providing health insurance for children is also cost-effective since preventing illness or treating it at the doctor’s office is more economical than waiting until illnesses are severe enough for a visit to the emergency room. Congressman Matheson is a strong supporter of CHIP and has worked to protect and expand the program to cover all qualified Utah children and decrease waiting lists for eligible families in the State.
Safeguarding America’s Pharmaceuticals Act
The House passed H.R.1919, the Safeguarding America’s Pharmaceuticals Act of 2013. This bill, which Congressman Matheson introduced with his Republican colleague Congressman Bob Latta, is the product of several years of negotiation, collaboration, and compromise with industry stakeholders, government agencies, consumers and Congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
The bill would enhance the security of the pharmaceutical distribution supply chain for America’s patients and prevent duplicative Federal and State requirements. It would also establish a collaborative, transparent process between the FDA and stakeholders to ensure a reasonable, practical transition to tracking drugs through the supply chain – from the manufacturer to the hospital or pharmacy, but not to the patient. This is to ensure that counterfeiters are not able to slip fake or stolen drugs into the supply chain. Counterfeit drugs are growing on the black market, which could prove to be more lucrative to bad actors than the illegal drug trade.
Counterfeit or stolen drugs can endanger the lives of patients by causing individuals to unknowingly take unsafe toxins, or hamper treatment to patients receiving drugs with no active ingredients. In fact, in 2012 and 2013, reports of counterfeit cancer drugs reaching American medical professionals were made public. These counterfeit products contained no cancer-fighting ingredients, and had they reached patients, would have caused significant harm. This bill steps-up a process to ensure that incidences such as this do not happen anymore.
Reforming Physician Payment
For far too long Medicare beneficiaries and physicians have dealt with the uncertainty of a payment formula which results in enormous payment cuts for physicians until Congress temporarily delays them. Congress to often provides a last minute response that is inefficient and costs the federal taxpayers billions of dollars. A permanent fix to this flawed formula- commonly known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR)- is essential to preserve health services for our nation’s seniors, provide a stable business environment for physicians, and support the long-term economic health of our nation. Congressman Matheson is committed to finding that common sense solution and successfully passed a bipartisan amendment requiring Congress to move forward with a new payment methodology to ensure physicians can continue to serve Medicare patients.
Current medical liability laws create an incentive for doctors and hospitals to practice defensive medicine for fear of being sued, resulting in unnecessary costs, higher insurance premiums for both doctors and patients, and at times physicians refusing to take on high-risk patients. According to the American Medical Association, 61 percent of physicians age 55 and over have been sued for malpractice at some point during their career. While a path for appropriate legal disputes must exist, raising the bar to prevent frivolous lawsuits would help improve quality and reduce cost. Congressman Matheson is a strong champion for reforming our medical malpractice system and has sponsored several pieces of legislation to achieve this goal, including legislation passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee
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