Cantwell Says Health Care Bill Increases Access to Care and Cuts Costs

Cantwell provisions in HC reform measure deliver major benefits for WA

WASHINGTON, DC –Today, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) voted to move historic health legislation one step closer to final passage. This vote, to wrap up debate on the bill’s final amendment, required a “supermajority” of sixty votes and sets the stage for a vote on final passage from the Senate prior to Christmas. The legislation includes several provisions to improve access to care and assist Washington state residents by significantly cutting costs. 

"With a sense of pride and of realism, I am voting in favor of Majority Leader Reid's amended health care reform bill,” said Cantwell. “We are near the end of a very long legislative journey, involving thousands of hours of hearings and debate, and we are closer to the finish line than we have ever been in American history.
“This bill is not perfect. No member of the Senate is entirely happy with what’s included and what’s left out. The 60-vote majority is a major hurdle, particularly for a bill such as this, and we have cleared that hurdle. This bill contains vitally important measures aimed at helping seniors, expanding coverage, and stabilizing insurance rates. We are preserving what works in our system, while gaining higher quality, more affordable coverage.
“I am particularly proud of language I added to the bill in the Senate Finance Committee to develop a new way of paying providers under Medicare, which will put the focus back on getting better outcomes for patents, and an amendment based on Washington state's Basic Health Plan that will give states the power to negotiate for better insurance rates for lower income individuals and families.
“Those of us who favor the public option are disappointed it is not included in the final bill before us. We will continue to work toward this goal, which is fully compatible with other elements of the bill. In the meantime, our job is to get this bill to the President and then ensure its provisions are effectively implemented so that the cost savings and quality improvements we seek are realized. This is a historic moment. The conflict and compromise involved in getting to this point should not obscure the magnitude of this legislative achievement."
The legislation will reduce the federal deficit by $132 billion over the first ten years, and provide insurance coverage to 94 percent of Americans   For more information, click here.
Washington state residents have won a significant victory with this legislation. The bill reforms Medicare’s broken payment system in a way that will sure up the trust fund with savings, while actually bringing more money to providers in WA. Washington patients and doctors will no longer be penalized by payment formulas that shift money away from WA’s efficient health care systems and give it to inefficient provides in other parts of the country. This bill will improve access to Medicare doctors in Washington and increase benefits, including helping to close the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole. It also clears the way for the federal government to cover the cost of WA’s Basic Health plan, relieving our state budget of a major cost item while expanding a program that has a 20 year record of proven success.
The Senate will have four additional procedural votes between now and a vote on final passage, scheduled for Thursday evening. Two of these votes will be subject to a 60 vote supermajority, but achieving a 60 vote threshold on this morning’s vote means the Senate has already cleared its most substantial barrier to passage.  
Key Cantwell improvements included in the Manager’s Amendment package:
·         Reduced barriers to federal funding to supplement WA’s Basic Health Plan and other state-funded health care programs. Under the Manager’s Amendment, WA will be able to apply for up to $180 million in annual federal funding beginning in the next fiscal year. This funding will help carry these programs through the state’s budget crisis, ensuring access to care for WA residents while federal reform is being implemented.
·         Strengthened the long-term funding formula for the Basic Health Plan after health reform implementation in 2014. This puts more power in the hands of all states to obtain better coverage at lower prices. In WA, residents will see improved benefit packages under Basic Health and the state will be able to save much needed funds. 
·         Restores $1.1 billion in funding for home-based long-term care that will help states transition their Medicaid programs to support home-based care, instead of forcing people into nursing homes. Over half of all long-term care in America is provided under Medicaid, and home-based care is better for individuals and almost 70 percent less expensive.
More information about other key Cantwell provisions in the underlying bill can be found here.