Kagen hails health care bill House passed
The Shawano Leader
By Tim Ryan, Leader Reporter
November 13, 2009
U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.) is hailing the health care reform bill passed by the House last week as a historic piece of legislation, though it remains to be seen whether the same proposals find their way into Senate version.
“In my mind this bill deserved to go to second base, to be considered by the Senate and improved upon and when it comes back to the House we’ll have another chance at improving it even more,” Kagen said during a visit to the Shawano Leader Tuesday.
Kagen said the House bill is good for seniors because it will cut waste in Medicare while improving what works about the program.
“We’re going to measure the effectiveness of Medicare Advantage plans across the country and those that don’t measure up to high quality will cease to exist,” he said.
But he said that wouldn’t threaten the program in this state.
“Here in Wisconsin where the Medicare Advantage Plan is very popular, the Medicare Advantage Plan will survive,” Kagen said.
Kagen said the bill would also allow the federal government to negotiate for deeper discounts for prescription drugs for seniors in Medicare Part D and allow insurance policies to be sold across state lines
“For small business owners this is a big win,” Kagen said, because it would allow small businesses to pool employees together from many small businesses to form a buying group to bring prices down.
Kagen said the proposals put patients, their families and doctors in charge of health care again.
“This is going to guarantee access to affordable health care,” he said. “You won’t have to have a bake sale and sell cookies and doughnuts to raise money to take care of your children’s health care or your parents’.”
The House bill would also ban discrimination for pre existing conditions — a measure also being proposed in the Senate.
Kagen said the House version would also create a standard health benefit plan, but he is continuing to push for a proposal not included in the bill mandating transparency in pricing.
“Unless we have transparency we have no real mechanism to leverage the prices down,” Kagen said.
Kagen would not say whether there were any specific measures that could be a deal-breaker for him if they are not included in the Senate version, or if any new Senate proposals might cause him to vote against it.
“There are three questions I always ask myself about any legislation,” he said. “Will it work? Can we afford it? Is it the right thing to do?”
Kagen also said the House bill is affordable, because it would reduce the federal deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years.
The bill would tax annual income of more than $1 million by an additional 5.4 percent to help pay its costs.