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Tom Daschle on Health Care

Former Democratic Senator (SD); Secretary of H.H.S.-Designee


Only industrialized nation without guaranteed health care

We like to boast that we have the highest standard of living in the world, and yet at the dawn of the 21st century, we are the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee necessary health care to all of its citizens. It is stunning and shameful. There are about 47 million Americans without health insurance, and researchers have estimated that about 4/5 of them are either employed or members of a family with an employed adult. An additional 16 million people are "underinsured," or have coverage that would not protect them from catastrophic medical expenses. Simply put, an increasing number of Americans lack health insurance because they--and their employers--just can't afford it.

Only 65% of people earning less than $10 an hour are offered health insurance at work. Furthermore, as health-care costs have exploded, many employers who offer coverage have reduced the portion of the premiums they cover. As a result, many working people can't afford coverage even when it is available to them.

Source: Critical: The Health Care Crisis, by Tom Daschle, Chapter 1 , Feb 19, 2008

We spend $6,100/yr on medical care; twice the world average

More than 16 percent of our economy, or $2 trillion, is spent on health care. On a per person basis, Americans spent more than $6,100 on medical care in 2004, more than twice the industrial world's average and about 50 percent more than the next most expensive country, Switzerland. This disparity is even more striking when one considers that in every other industrialized country, every citizen is covered. Between 2000 and 2007, U.S. health premiums have risen 98 percent, while wages have increased by only 23 percent. The average family health insurance policy now costs more than the earnings of a full-time, minimum-wage worker. No wonder medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States, accounting for about half of them. Incredibly, one fifth of working-age Americans--both insured and uninsured--have medical debt they are paying off over time. More than two-fifths of these people owe $2,000 or more.
Source: Critical: The Health Care Crisis, by Tom Daschle, Chapter 1 , Feb 19, 2008

Even the employed are not secure in their health insurance

Americans with solid, employer-based insurance may believe they are secure, but in our health-care system everyone is just a pink slip, a divorce, or a major illness away from financial disaster. A 2005 study on the link between medical costs & bankruptcy found that "even brief lapses in insurance coverage may be ruinous and should not be viewed as benign," and that even people with insurance can be forced into bankruptcy by high medical bills, because "many health insurance policies prove to be too skimp in the face of serious illness." Medical debt affects health, families' economic security, and even their jobs. The same study recounted a story that illustrates this:

"For instance, one debtor underwent lung surgery and suffered a heart attack. Both hospitalizations were covered by his employer-based insurance, but he was unable to return to his physically demanding job. He found new employment but was denied coverage because of his preexisting conditions, which required costly ongoing care."

Source: Critical: The Health Care Crisis, by Tom Daschle, Chapter 1 , Feb 19, 2008

Give everyone the same health plan as Congress has

We will work to lower the cost of health care. Every American should have the same health care options, the same price as members of Congress do. And we will work to provide every senior with a real prescription drug benefit that actually lowers costs to seniors instead of handing billions of dollars to big drug companies and the HMOs. We’re going to do that.
Source: Speech to the Democratic National Convention , Jul 28, 2004

More people without insurance under Bush

Our opportunity society is built on the belief that affordable, available health care is not a luxury but a basic foundation for a truly compassionate society. Today, 43 million Americans-almost all of them from working families-have no health insurance. That’s over 3 million more than when President Bush took office.

Those Americans lucky enough to have health insurance have seen their premiums go up each of the last three years. The increase in premiums that middle-income families have seen over the past three years is actually larger than the four-year tax cut that they’ve been promised. This is an invisible tax increase on middle- class families.

Tonight, the president acknowledged that the rapidly rising cost of health care and the increasing number of Americans with no health coverage are problems. But the tax cuts he proposed are not a solution. Tax cuts will do little to make health care more affordable, and they will weaken health coverage for those who have it now.

Source: Democratic Response to the 2004 State of the Union address , Jan 20, 2004

Allow more affordable drugs via Canadian imports

We believe that the federal government should use the power of 40 million Americans to lower prescription drug prices and to allow us to get more affordable drugs from Canada, instead of forbidding both. Drug companies and insurance companies are the only ones who benefit from that restriction, not the American people, and that’s why we want to change it.
Source: Democratic Response to the 2004 State of the Union address , Jan 20, 2004

Voted YES on $40 billion per year for limited Medicare prescription drug benefit.

S. 1 As Amended; Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003. Vote to pass a bill that would authorize $400 billion over 10 years to create a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients beginning in 2006. Seniors would be allowed to remain within the traditional fee-for-service program or seniors would have the option to switch to a Medicare Advantage program that includes prescription drug coverage. Private insurers would provide prescription drug coverage. Private Insurers would engage in competitive bidding to be awarded two-year regional contracts by the Center for Medicare Choices under the Department of Health and Human Services.Enrolled seniors would pay a $275 deductible and an average monthly premium of $35. Annual drug costs beyond the deductible and up to $4,500 would be divided equally between the beneficiary and the insurer. Beneficiaries with incomes below 160 percent of the poverty level would be eligible for added assistance.
Reference: Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit bill; Bill S.1/H.R.1 ; vote number 2003-262 on Jun 26, 2003

Voted YES on allowing reimportation of Rx drugs from Canada.

S. 812, as amended; Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act of 2002. Vote to pass a bill that would permit a single 30-month stay against Food and Drug Administration approval of a generic drug patent when a brand-name company's patent is challenged. The secretary of Health and Human Services would be authorized to announce regulations allowing pharmacists and wholesalers to import prescription drugs from Canada into the United States. Canadian pharmacies and wholesalers that provide drugs for importation would be required to register with Health and Human Services. Individuals would be allowed to import prescription drugs from Canada. The medication would have to be for an individual use and a supply of less than 90-days.
Reference: Bill S.812 ; vote number 2002-201 on Jul 31, 2002

Voted YES on allowing patients to sue HMOs & collect punitive damages.

Vote to provide federal protections, such as access to specialty and emergency room care, and allow patients to sue health insurers in state and federal courts. Economic damages would not be capped, and punitive damages would be capped at $5 million.
Reference: Bill S1052 ; vote number 2001-220 on Jun 29, 2001

Voted NO on funding GOP version of Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Vote to pass an amendment that would make up to $300 billion available for a Medicare prescription drug benefit for 2002 through 2011. The money would come from the budget's contingency fund. The amendment would also require a Medicare overhaul.
Reference: Bill H Con Res 83 ; vote number 2001-65 on Apr 3, 2001

Voted YES on including prescription drugs under Medicare.

Vote to establish a prescription drug benefit program through the Medicare health insurance program. Among other provisions, Medicare would contribute at least 50% of the cost of prescription drugs and beneficiaries would pay a $250 deductible
Reference: Bill HR.4690 ; vote number 2000-144 on Jun 22, 2000

Voted NO on limiting self-employment health deduction.

The Santorum (R-PA) amdt would effectively kill the Kennedy Amdt (D-MA) which would have allowed self-employed individuals to fully deduct the cost of their health insurance on their federal taxes.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)53; N)47
Reference: Santorum Amdt #1234; Bill S. 1344 ; vote number 1999-202 on Jul 13, 1999

Voted YES on increasing tobacco restrictions.

This cloture motion was on a bill which would have increased tobacco restrictions. [YES is an anti-smoking vote].
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)57; N)42; NV)1
Reference: Motion to invoke cloture on a modified committee substitute to S. 1415; Bill S. 1415 ; vote number 1998-161 on Jun 17, 1998

Voted NO on Medicare means-testing.

Approval of means-based testing for Medicare insurance premiums.
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)70; N)20
Reference: Motion to table the Kennedy Amdt #440; Bill S. 947 ; vote number 1997-113 on Jun 24, 1997

Voted YES on blocking medical savings acounts.

Vote to block a plan which would allow tax-deductible medical savings accounts.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)52; N)46; NV)2
Reference: Kassebaum Amdt #3677; Bill S. 1028 ; vote number 1996-72 on Apr 18, 1996

Invest funds to alleviate the nursing shortage.

Daschle co-sponsored the Nurse Reinvestment Act

Source: Bill sponsored by 39 Senators 01-S706 on Apr 5, 2001

Let states make bulk Rx purchases, and other innovations.

Daschle signed a letter from 30 Senators to the Secretary of HHS

To: The Honorable Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary, Department of Health & Human Services

Dear Secretary Thompson:

As you know, prescription drug costs have been surging at double-digit rates for the last six years. The average annual increase 1999 through 2003 was a massive 16%, seven times the rate of general inflation.

These increases fall hardest on senior citizens and the uninsured. Their health needs are often great, and their low incomes often make these products unaffordable. They have no ability to use their combined purchasing power to negotiate reasonable prices. Taxpayers pay tens of billions of dollars for the purchase of drugs by Medicaid—an expense that could be reduced significantly if states are permitted to negotiate for the best prices from drug manufacturers.

As you know, the Supreme Court has just ruled that Maine's innovative program to reduce prescription drug costs for the uninsured and senior citizens is not a violation of the Medicaid law. As a result of this decision, Maine can use the combined buying power of Medicaid and individuals purchasing drugs on their own to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers. Twenty-nine other states supported the position taken by Maine, and there is broad interest in many states in initiating similar programs.

The Supreme Court's ruling, however, left open the possibility that if the Department of Health and Human Services makes a finding that the Maine program violates the Medicaid statute, the Department's action would be upheld by the Court. We urge you not to intervene to block Maine's program or similar statutes in other states that achieve savings for taxpayers, the elderly, and the uninsured. Such programs must be carefully implemented to assure that the poor are not denied access to needed drugs, but there is no justification for the federal government to deny states the ability to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of their neediest citizens.

Source: Letter from 30 Senators to the Secretary of HHS 03-SEN6 on May 20, 2003

Increase funding to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Daschle co-sponsored the budget allocation for HIV/AIDS

S.AMDT.281 to S.CON.RES.23: To increase the budget allocation for programs to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and to reduce the deficit.

Source: Amendment sponsored by 6 Senators 03-SR23 on Mar 26, 2003

Rated 88% by APHA, indicating a pro-public health record.

Daschle scores 88% by APHA on health issues

The American Public Health Association (APHA) is the oldest and largest organization of public health professionals in the world, representing more than 50,000 members from over 50 occupations of public health. APHA is concerned with a broad set of issues affecting personal and environmental health, including federal and state funding for health programs, pollution control, programs and policies related to chronic and infectious diseases, a smoke-free society, and professional education in public health.

The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: APHA website 03n-APHA on Dec 31, 2003

Collect data on birth defects and present to the public.

Daschle co-sponsored the Birth Defects Prevention Act

Corresponding House bill is H.R.1114. Became Public Law No: 105-168.
Source: Bill sponsored by 35 Senators and 164 Reps 97-S419 on Mar 11, 1997

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Page last updated: Dec 15, 2011