Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Obama on the Issues - Health Care

Health Care

The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, yet more than 45 million Americans have no health insurance. Too many hard-working Americans cannot afford their medical bills, and thus, health-related issues are the number one cause for personal bankruptcy. Too many employers are finding it difficult to offer the coverage their employees need.

Promoting affordable, accessible, and high-quality health care was a priority for Barack Obama in the Illinois State Senate and is a priority for him in the United States Senate. He believes firmly that health care should be a right for everyone, not a privilege for the few.

Preserving and Improving Medicare and Medicaid

Medicare and Medicaid represent America's commitment to take care of the elderly and the poor--some of our most vulnerable citizens. Senator Obama has voted to preserve and strengthen these programs at every opportunity. He has voted to restore funding to these programs and has voted against budgets that cut these programs.


Some 42 million American seniors are served by Medicare, including 1.7 million in Illinois. Medicare is a promise we have made to our seniors, and along with Social Security, it is essential to a dignified and financially sound retirement. Cuts to Medicare will seriously harm those who have worked all their lives, paid into the system, and need medical care.

Senator Obama is concerned about the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program and its effect on our nation's elderly and disabled. In particular, he is concerned with the difficulty enrolling and choosing among a large number of plans (more than 40 in Illinois), the restrictions on changing plan selection after enrollment, the prohibition against negotiating for the best drug price or discounts, and the high costs of the program for seniors.

Senator Obama is a cosponsor of the Medicare Informed Choice Act (S. 1841), which would extend enrollment without penalty until the end of 2006. This bill would also allow all Part D beneficiaries to change their plan once during 2006.


Medicaid is the nation's health safety net. Over 53 million Americans of all ages, including 2 million Illinoisans, rely on Medicaid for their health care. As a member of the Senate's Medicaid Working Group, Senator Obama will continue the fight to strengthen Medicaid, as well as help providers who care for large numbers of poor and uninsured patients.

Improving Quality of Health Care

Senator Obama is pursuing legislative initiatives to help improve health care quality.

He helped draft and introduce the National MEDiC Act (S. 1784), which promotes patient safety initiatives, including early disclosure and compensation to patients injured by medical errors. He also introduced the Hospital Quality Report Card Act (S. 2359), which will use federal hospital quality reporting requirements to inform and assist patients and other consumers in making their health care decisions.

Senator Obama strongly believes that greater use of health information technology can contain costs and improve the efficiency of our health care system. He introduced the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Efficiency Act (S. 2247), which would leverage the federal government's purchasing power to encourage increased adoption of technology by participating health plans.

In 2005, Senator Obama spoke at the commencement of the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine about the importance of health information technology. Click here to read that speech.

Avian Flu

Avian influenza - or bird flu - is a potentially grave health threat to the U.S. and other countries around the world. Senator Obama was an early leader in bringing this problem before Congress and pushing for greater funding to improve preparedness.

Starting in March 2005, he obtained $25 million for international efforts to combat the avian flu and called for an inter-agency task force to immediately address this issue. This funding is now being used to mitigate the effects of the pandemic in Southeast Asia.

Senator Obama introduced the Attacking Viral Influenza Across Nations Act (S. 969), which calls for collaboration and cooperation at the state, national, and international level to ensure preparedness in the event of pandemic influenza. Such preparedness includes the procurement of antivirals, development of effective vaccines, and improvement of the public health infrastructure and medical surge capacity in hospitals.

Senator Obama also worked to push $7.9 billion through the Senate to help the U.S. prepare for the possibility of an avian flu pandemic.

Environmental Health

Senator Obama is deeply concerned with the hazards of lead poisoning. Almost 400,000 children have elevated blood lead levels, including many in Illinois. Over the past year, one of his legislative priorities has been highlighting the problems associated with elevated blood lead levels in children. As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Obama pressured the Environmental Protection Agency to issue long overdue rules for home remodeling and renovation that could prevent 28,000 lead-related illnesses each year, resulting in an annual net economic benefit of more than $4 billion.

In 2005, Senator Obama introduced the Lead Free Toys Act (S. 2048), requiring the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban any children's product containing lead.

He also introduced the Healthy Communities Act (S. 2047) to identify and address problems in communities that are at high risk from environmental contaminants. In addition, recognizing the contribution of housing, parks, trails, roadways, and public transportation to healthy lifestyles, Senator Obama introduced the Healthy Places Act (S. 2506) to assess and support improvements to the built environment.


Genomics is the study of how a person's genetic makeup affects propensity for disease and response to treatment. Research in this area has the potential to predict which people will get sick, diagnose illnesses earlier, and screen patients to determine which drugs will be safe and effective. In August 2006, Senator Obama introduced the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act of 2006 (S. 3822), which would increase funding for research on genomics, expand the genomics workforce, provide a tax credit for the development of diagnostic tests that can improve the safety or effectiveness of drugs, and reaffirm the need to protect genetic privacy.

Source: http://obama.senate.gov/issues/

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