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Congressman Capuano's
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
8th Congressional District of Massachusetts
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January 21, 2011

Health Care

This week the House voted to repeal some significant patients' rights when H.R. 2: Repealing the Job Killing Health Care Law Act passed in the House:

Pre-Existing Conditions

Prior to the passage of historic health care reform last year, health insurers were allowed to deny coverage to anyone who came to them with a serious pre-existing condition. These medical conditions included such problems as asthma (something I have had since I was 3 years old), cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart problems, mental illness, hemophilia, epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis and many other existing ailments that would be considered costly to insurers.

This week the Department of Health and Human Services released a report highlighting that between 19% and 50% of all Americans under age 65 have medical problems that raise red flags for health insurers. Yet the House vote repeals the requirement that insurance companies offer coverage to those trying to cope with pre-existing conditions and the serious medical challenges they present.

Recent Graduates

Many families have faced the problem of obtaining health coverage for their child who has just graduated from college or high school and does not have coverage of their own. This can be a daunting expense especially during these tough economic times. Beginning in September 2010, the health care reform bill allowed young people to stay on their parents' insurance plan until the age of 26. This provision was also repealed with the House vote.

Senior Citizens

Repeal of health care reform would hit our seniors the hardest. Seniors who have Medicare coverage would be forced to provide a co-payment for important preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies. Additionally, annual check-ups would not be covered and beneficiaries would have to pay extra if they wanted to be proactive about their health by getting regular check-ups.

Furthermore, Medicare beneficiaries would be faced with significantly higher drug costs. In Massachusetts there are nearly 52,000 beneficiaries who received a one-time, tax free $250 rebate in 2010 to help pay for prescription drugs caught in the "donut-hole" coverage gap. Repeal would increase the average cost of prescription drugs for these seniors by over $500 in 2011 and by over $3,000 in 2020. As you may know, the donut hole, or coverage gap, is an extremely controversial part of the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Many beneficiaries are shocked when they are forced to go from making co-payments for their drugs to paying 100% of the cost. The changes made through the Affordable Care Act help seniors adjust to the out-of-pocket costs with the rebate and a 50% discount on the total cost of brand name drugs beginning in 2011 while they are caught in the gap.

As regular readers of this newsletter know, I was not happy with every aspect of the health care reform bill. There are a number of items that can be improved upon or changed as we move forward but throwing out the entire bill is not the answer. As you know, I support single payer and wanted a strong public option in this bill. In the end, the bill was passed without a public option and I still supported it because of the many other benefits it provides.

Health care is expensive, especially in Massachusetts. I want to see premiums lowered for individuals and families, and I would like to see more affordable options for small business owners. I know that many small businesses are still not seeing enough relief when it comes to health care costs. Under current law businesses that pay more than 50% of employees' health benefits, have fewer than 25 employees, and pay average annual wages of less than $50,000 can claim a tax credit of up to 35% of the cost of premiums from the 2010 tax year through the 2013 tax year. Many in Massachusetts do not qualify for this tax credit because the criteria are so narrow.

It troubles me that the health care reform bill did not contain any changes in medical malpractice laws. Although it did provide some funding for states to explore demonstration projects to test alternatives to the existing civil litigation system, this is only a small step towards addressing a monumental problem.

I voted against repealing historic health care reform. Although the bill passed easily in the House, it faces a much tougher path in the Senate and a certain veto by the President. The entire vote is recorded below:






















I join with members of the international community in congratulating Sudan on its recent historic referendum vote. Preliminary results released from local polling stations, as well as those released yesterday by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, indicate that Southerners have overwhelmingly chosen to create their own new country. Many, including myself, had expressed strong reservations in the lead up to the vote. However, it is now becoming clear that the referendum was largely successful and will be viewed by international monitors as credible. While I am pleased and reassured that the referendum saw impressive voter turnout and relatively little violence in most states, peace is not yet assured.

I call on the people of Sudan in both the North and South to make good use of the remaining months of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and settle key outstanding issues, such as border demarcation, citizenship, oil and wealth sharing, and division of assets and debts. The months ahead will undoubtedly prove challenging as the boundaries, resources, and governance of a new nation are established. We must encourage diplomacy and mutual restraint.

The work does not end here; rather, this marks a new beginning for all those involved and calls for a renewal of commitment to peaceful political change. For my part, I stand ready to ensure that through the House Sudan Caucus and Congressional action, the United States upholds its responsibility to the people of Sudan and assists where possible as the people of Southern Sudan chart their new course.

What's up Next Week

President Obama will deliver his State of the Union Address on Tuesday evening.

Congressman Mike Capuano
8th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Financial Services
Committee on House Administration

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