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Sheldon Whitehouse on Health Care

Democratic Jr Senator, previously attorney general


Provide all families with insurance

My number one priority in the Senate will be to take on the special interests and create a better health care system. We need comprehensive reform to lower costs, provide all families with insurance, and improve our health and medical treatment.

I believe we must solve our health care crisis. I believe we can lower health care costs for our families, make sure no child goes without care, and make sure every senior citizen gets affordable prescription drug coverage. The answers are out there.

Source: 2006 Senate website, WhitehouseForSenate.com, “Key issues” , May 2, 2006

Scrap Medicare Rx plan, and negotiate for drug prices

One of the most immediate things we need to do is to scrap the new Medicare prescription drug plan and immediately replace it with a plan that works for seniors. My plan will make it easier for more seniors who need coverage, to get it. And to ensure the lowest possible prescription costs, I’ll make sure that Medicare can use the huge bargaining power of the federal government to negotiate for lower priced drugs, just the way the VA does.
Source: 2006 Senate website, WhitehouseForSenate.com, “Key issues” , May 2, 2006

Focus on quality to address healthcare crisis

Recognizing the healthcare crisis confronting his state’s families, Sheldon founded the Quality Institute, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of health care in Rhode Island.
Source: 2006 Senate campaign website WhitehouseForSenate.com “About” , Dec 25, 2005

Voted NO on the Ryan Budget: Medicare choice, tax & spending cuts.

Proponent's Arguments for voting Yes:

[Sen. DeMint, R-SC]: The Democrats have Medicare on a course of bankruptcy. Republicans are trying to save Medicare & make sure there are options for seniors in the future. Medicare will not be there 5 or 10 years from now. Doctors will not see Medicare patients at the rate [Congress will] pay.

[Sen. Ayotte, R-NH]: We have 3 choices when it comes to addressing rising health care costs in Medicare. We can do nothing & watch the program go bankrupt in 2024. We can go forward with the President's proposal to ration care through an unelected board of 15 bureaucrats. Or we can show real leadership & strengthen the program to make it solvent for current beneficiaries, and allow future beneficiaries to make choices.

Opponent's Arguments for voting No:

[Sen. Conrad, D-ND]: In the House Republican budget plan, the first thing they do is cut $4 trillion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the wealthiest among us, they give them an additional $1 trillion in tax reductions. To offset these massive new tax cuts, they have decided to shred the social safety net. They have decided to shred Medicare. They have decided to shred program after program so they can give more tax cuts to those who are the wealthiest among us.

[Sen. Merkley, D-TK]: The Republicans chose to end Medicare as we know it. The Republican plan reopens the doughnut hole. That is the hole into which seniors fall when, after they have some assistance with the first drugs they need, they get no assistance until they reach a catastrophic level. It is in that hole that seniors have had their finances devastated. We fixed it. Republicans want to unfix it and throw seniors back into the abyss. Then, instead of guaranteeing Medicare coverage for a fixed set of benefits for every senior--as Medicare does now--the Republican plan gives seniors a coupon and says: Good luck. Go buy your insurance. If the insurance goes up, too bad.
Status: Failed 40-57

Reference: Ryan Budget Plan; Bill HCR34&SCR21 ; vote number 11-SV077 on May 25, 2011

Voted YES on regulating tobacco as a drug.

Congressional Summary:Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to provide for the regulation of tobacco products by the Secretary of Health and Human Services through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Defines a tobacco product as any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption. Excludes from FDA authority the tobacco leaf and tobacco farms.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. HEATH SHULER (D, NC-11): Putting a dangerous, overworked FDA in charge of tobacco is a threat to public safety. Last year, the FDA commissioner testified that he had serious concerns that this bill could undermine the public health role of the FDA. And the FDA Science Board said the FDA's inability to keep up with scientific advancements means that Americans' lives will be at risk.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes: Rep. HENRY WAXMAN (D, CA-30): The bill before us, the Waxman-Platts bill, has been carefully crafted over more than a decade, in close consultation with the public health community. It's been endorsed by over 1,000 different public health, scientific, medical, faith, and community organizations.

Sen. HARRY REID (D, NV): Yesterday, 3,500 children who had never smoked before tried their first cigarette. For some, it will also be their last cigarette but certainly not all. If you think 3,500 is a scary number, how about 3.5 million. That is a pretty scary number. That is how many American high school kids smoke--3.5 million. Nearly all of them aren't old enough to buy cigarettes. It means we have as many boys and girls smoking as are participating in athletics in high schools. We have as many as are playing football, basketball, track and field, and baseball combined.

Reference: Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act; Bill HR1256&S982 ; vote number 2009-S207 on Jun 11, 2009

Voted YES on expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:

Rep. FRANK PALLONE (D, NJ-6): In the last Congress, we passed legislation that enjoyed bipartisan support as well as the support of the American people. Unfortunately, it did not enjoy the support of the President, who vetoed our bill twice, and went on to proclaim that uninsured children can simply go to the emergency room to have their medical needs met. As the Nation moves deeper into a recession and unemployment rates continue to rise, millions of Americans are joining the ranks of the uninsured, many of whom are children. We can't delay. We must enact this legislation now.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. ROY BLUNT (R, MI-7): This bill doesn't require the States to meet any kind of threshold standard that would ensure that States were doing everything they could to find kids who needed insurance before they begin to spend money to find kids who may not have the same need. Under the bill several thousands of American families would be poor enough to qualify for SCHIP and have the government pay for their health care, but they'd be rich enough to still be required to pay the alternative minimum tax. The bill changes welfare participation laws by eliminating the 5-year waiting period for legal immigrants to lawfully reside in the country before they can participate in this program. In the final bill, we assume that 65% of the children receiving the benefit wouldn't get the benefit anymore. It seems to me this bill needs more work, would have benefited from a committee hearing. It doesn't prioritize poor kids to ensure that they get health care first.

Reference: SCHIP Reauthorization Act; Bill H.R.2 ; vote number 2009-S031 on Jan 29, 2009

Voted YES on overriding veto on expansion of Medicare.

Congressional Summary:Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH's veto message (argument to vote No):In addition, H.R. 6331 would delay important reforms like the Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies competitive bidding program. Changing policy in mid-stream is also confusing to beneficiaries who are receiving services from quality suppliers at lower prices. In order to slow the growth in Medicare spending, competition within the program should be expanded, not diminished.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes: Sen. PATTY MURRAY (D, WA): President Bush vetoed a bill that would make vital improvements to the program that has helped ensure that millions of seniors and the disabled can get the care they need. This bill puts an emphasis on preventive care that will help our seniors stay healthy, and it will help to keep costs down by enabling those patients to get care before they get seriously ill. This bill will improve coverage for low-income seniors who need expert help to afford basic care. It will help make sure our seniors get mental health care.

Reference: Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act; Bill HR.6331 ; vote number 2008-S177 on Jul 15, 2008

Voted NO on means-testing to determine Medicare Part D premium.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To require wealthy Medicare beneficiaries to pay a greater share of their Medicare Part D premiums.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES: Sen. ENSIGN: This amendment is to means test Medicare Part D the same way we means test Medicare Part B. An individual senior making over $82,000 a year, or a senior couple making over $164,000, would be expected to pay a little over $10 a month extra. That is all we are doing. This amendment saves a couple billion dollars over the next 5 years. It is very reasonable. There is nothing else in this budget that does anything on entitlement reform, and we all know entitlements are heading for a train wreck in this country. We ought to at least do this little bit for our children for deficit reduction.

OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. BAUCUS: The problem with this amendment is exactly what the sponsor said: It is exactly like Part B. Medicare Part B is a premium that is paid with respect to doctors' examinations and Medicare reimbursement. Part D is the drug benefit. Part D premiums vary significantly nationwide according to geography and according to the plans offered. It is nothing like Part B.

Second, any change in Part D is required to be in any Medicare bill if it comes up. We may want to make other Medicare changes. We don't want to be restricted to means testing.

Third, this should be considered broad health care reform, at least Medicare reform, and not be isolated in this case. LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 42-56

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4240 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S063 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted NO on allowing tribal Indians to opt out of federal healthcare.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:
    TRIBAL MEMBER CHOICE PROGRAM: Members of federally-recognized Indian Tribes shall be provided the opportunity to voluntarily enroll, with a risk-adjusted subsidy for the purchase of qualified health insurance in order to--
  1. improve Indian access to high quality health care services;
  2. provide incentives to Indian patients to seek preventive health care services;
  3. create opportunities for Indians to participate in the health care decision process;
  4. encourage effective use of health care services by Indians; and
  5. allow Indians to make health care coverage & delivery decisions & choices.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. COBURN: The underlying legislation, S.1200, does not fix the underlying problems with tribal healthcare. It does not fix rationing. It does not fix waiting lines. It does not fix the inferior quality that is being applied to a lot of Native Americans and Alaskans in this country. It does not fix any of those problems. In fact, it authorizes more services without making sure the money is there to follow it.

Those who say a failure to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act is a violation of our trust obligations are correct. However, I believe simply reauthorizing this system with minor modifications is an even greater violation of that commitment.

OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. DORGAN: It is not more money necessarily that is only going to solve the problem. But I guarantee you that less money will not solve the problem. If you add another program for other Indians who can go somewhere else and be able to present a card, they have now taken money out of the system and purchased their own insurance--then those who live on the reservation with the current Indian Health Service clinic there has less money. How does that work to help the folks who are stranded with no competition?

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 28-67

Reference: Tribal Member Choice Program; Bill SA.4034 to SA.3899 to S.1200 ; vote number 08-S025 on Feb 14, 2008

Voted YES on adding 2 to 4 million children to SCHIP eligibility.

Allows State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP), that require state legislation to meet additional requirements imposed by this Act, additional time to make required plan changes. Pres. Bush vetoed this bill on Dec. 12, 2007, as well as a version (HR976) from Feb. 2007.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Rep. DINGELL: This is not a perfect bill, but it is an excellent bipartisan compromise. The bill provides health coverage for 3.9 million children who are eligible, yet remain uninsured. It meets the concerns expressed in the President's veto message [from HR976]:

  1. It terminates the coverage of childless adults.
  2. It targets bonus payments only to States that increase enrollments of the poorest uninsured children, and it prohibits States from covering families with incomes above $51,000.
  3. It contains adequate enforcement to ensure that only US citizens are covered.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Rep. DEAL: This bill [fails to] fix the previous legislation that has been vetoed:

Veto message from President Bush:

Like its predecessor, HR976, this bill does not put poor children first and it moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction. Ultimately, our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage--not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage. As a result, I cannot sign this legislation.

Reference: Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act; Bill H.R. 3963 ; vote number 2007-403 on Nov 1, 2007

Voted YES on requiring negotiated Rx prices for Medicare part D.

Would require negotiating with pharmaceutical manufacturers the prices that may be charged to prescription drug plan sponsors for covered Medicare part D drugs.

Proponents support voting YES because:

This legislation is an overdue step to improve part D drug benefits. The bipartisan bill is simple and straightforward. It removes the prohibition from negotiating discounts with pharmaceutical manufacturers, and requires the Secretary of Health & Human Services to negotiate. This legislation will deliver lower premiums to the seniors, lower prices at the pharmacy and savings for all taxpayers.

It is equally important to understand that this legislation does not do certain things. HR4 does not preclude private plans from getting additional discounts on medicines they offer seniors and people with disabilities. HR4 does not establish a national formulary. HR4 does not require price controls. HR4 does not hamstring research and development by pharmaceutical houses. HR4 does not require using the Department of Veterans Affairs' price schedule.

Opponents support voting NO because:

Does ideological purity trump sound public policy? It shouldn't, but, unfortunately, it appears that ideology would profoundly change the Medicare part D prescription drug program, a program that is working well, a program that has arrived on time and under budget. The changes are not being proposed because of any weakness or defect in the program, but because of ideological opposition to market-based prices. Since the inception of the part D program, America's seniors have had access to greater coverage at a lower cost than at any time under Medicare.

Under the guise of negotiation, this bill proposes to enact draconian price controls on pharmaceutical products. Competition has brought significant cost savings to the program. The current system trusts the marketplace, with some guidance, to be the most efficient arbiter of distribution.
Status: Cloture rejected Cloture vote rejected, 55-42 (3/5ths required)

Reference: Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act; Bill S.3 & H.R.4 ; vote number 2007-132 on Apr 18, 2007

Improve services for people with autism & their families.

Whitehouse co-sponsored improving services for people with autism & their families

Amends the Public Health Service Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to:

  1. convene, on behalf of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, a Treatments, Interventions, and Services Evaluation Task Force to evaluate evidence-based biomedical and behavioral treatments and services for individuals with autism;
  2. establish a multi-year demonstration grant program for states to provide evidence-based autism treatments, interventions, and services.
  3. establish planning and demonstration grant programs for adults with autism;
  4. award grants to states for access to autism services following diagnosis;
  5. award grants to University Centers of Excellence for Developmental Disabilities to provide services and address the unmet needs of individuals with autism and their families;
  6. make grants to protection and advocacy systems to address the needs of individuals with autism and other emerging populations of individuals with disabilities; and
  7. award a grant to a national nonprofit organization for the establishment and maintenance of a national technical assistance center for autism services and information dissemination.
  8. Directs the Comptroller General to issue a report on the financing of autism services and treatments.
Source: Promise for Individuals With Autism Act (S.937 & HR.1881) 07-HR1881 on Apr 17, 2007

Establish a national childhood cancer database.

Whitehouse co-sponsored establishing a national childhood cancer database

Conquer Childhood Cancer Act of 2007 - A bill to advance medical research and treatments into pediatric cancers, ensure patients and families have access to the current treatments and information regarding pediatric cancers, establish a population-based national childhood cancer database, and promote public awareness of pediatric cancers.

    Authorizes the Secretary to award grants to childhood cancer professional and direct service organizations for the expansion and widespread implementation of:
  1. activities that provide information on treatment protocols to ensure early access to the best available therapies and clinical trials for pediatric cancers;
  2. activities that provide available information on the late effects of pediatric cancer treatment to ensure access to necessary long-term medical and psychological care; and
  3. direct resource services such as educational outreach for parents, information on school reentry and postsecondary education, and resource directories or referral services for financial assistance, psychological counseling, and other support services.
Legislative Outcome: House version H.R.1553; became Public Law 110-285 on 7/29/2008.
Source: Conquer Childhood Cancer Act (S911/HR1553) 07-S911 on Mar 19, 2007

Increase funding for occupational & physical therapy.

Whitehouse signed Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act (MARS)

Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2011 - Amends title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to repeal the cap on outpatient physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and occupational therapy services of the type furnished by a physician or as an incident to physicians' services.

SEC. 2. OUTPATIENT THERAPY CAP REPEAL.

Section 1833 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395(l)) is amended by striking subsection (g).

[Explanatory note from Wikipedia.com "Therapy Cap"]:

In 1997 Congress established per-person Medicare spending limits, or "therapy cap" for nonhospital outpatient therapy, but responding to concerns that some people with Medicare need extensive services, it has since placed temporary moratoriums on the caps. The therapy cap is a combined $1,810 Medicare cap for physical therapy and speech language pathology, and a separate $1,810 cap for occupational therapy ($1870 for 2011). Medicare patients requiring rehabilitation from disabilities, car accidents, hip injuries, stroke, and other ailments would be limited to roughly two months worth of treatments at an outpatient therapy clinic. Any patients that exceed the cap, whether they are healed or not, would have to stop therapy, or pay for the therapy services out of their own pocket.Several medical associations have lobbied against therapy caps because the bill inadvertently restricted disabled seniors, stroke patients, and other severe cases from receiving therapy treatments.

Source: HR.1546&S829 11-S0829 on Apr 14, 2011

Preserve access to Medicaid & SCHIP during economic downturn.

Whitehouse co-sponsored preserving access to Medicaid & SCHIP in economic downturn

A bill to preserve access to Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program during an economic downturn.

Source: Economic Recovery in Health Care Act (S.2819) 2008-S2819 on Apr 7, 2008

Disclose payments from manufacturers to physicians.

Whitehouse signed Physician Payments Sunshine Act

Source: S.301&HR.3138 2009-S301 on Jan 22, 2009

Expand the National Health Service Corps.

Whitehouse signed Access for All America Act

    A bill to achieve access to comprehensive primary health care services for all Americans and to reform the organization of primary care delivery through an expansion of the Community Health Center and National Health Service Corps programs. Amends the Public Health Service Act to:
  1. increase and extend the authorization of appropriations for community health centers and for the National Health Service Corps scholarship and loan repayment program for FY2010-FY2015, and provide for increased funding for such programs in FY2016 and each subsequent fiscal year; and
  2. revise and expand provisions allowing a community health center to provide services at different locations, adjust its operating plan and budget, enter into arrangements with other centers to purchase supplies and services at reduced cost, and correct material failures in grant compliance.
Source: S.486&HR1296 2009-S486 on Mar 4, 2009

Other candidates on Health Care: Sheldon Whitehouse on other issues:
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Page last updated: Aug 12, 2014