Joseph Lieberman on Health Care
Democratic Jr Senator (CT, retiring 2012), ran for V.P. with Gore, ran for president 2004
Lieberman was exactly right. Joe later told me he wrote the op-ed because he had voted against House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan and knew it wasn't enough to just oppose what Republicans wanted to do. As a leader, he knew he had to put forward a real solution.
Over the next few weeks we spent many hours together, along with our staffs, crafting a plan to prevent the collapse of Medicare. The 3 key elements of our plan would raise the retirement age for Medicare [from 65 to 67], income-adjust premiums for wealthier and lower-income seniors, and remove the need for costly supplemental plans by creating a new maximum out-of-pocket deductible for seniors.
That was not a fair assessment, Clinton protested, because their health care plan was going largely to help people who were working. It was a subtlety that had been lost in the debate, Lieberman agreed.
Clinton insisted that the problem with the health care plan was not the substance. He had lost the communications and the political war. Lieberman disagreed. He felt that Clinton had forsaken the Democratic center. As a fellow member of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), Lieberman had broken with Clinton on his health care plan. The DLC had kept telling Clinton, why don't you do welfare reform first?
A: [We should have a program which]: One, promises when you’re born a child in America, you get a membership card in MediKids, covers your insurance. Two, if you lose your job, you will not lose your health insurance. Three, underemployed, self-employed, small business, you can buy into this plan, it’ll cost you a lot less, and, incidentally, you’ll get drug benefits with it. That’s the kind of centrist leadership that produces results.
A: We need to deliver a drug benefit -- but we need to do it right, by providing a universal benefit to all seniors. We should allow real importation of prescription drugs; eliminate premium support demonstration projects; allow Medicare to use its purchasing power to achieve savings in the cost of prescription drugs; and eliminate the $12 billion slush fund for HMOs.
LIEBERMAN: There is a morally scandalous fact-that that 43 million Americans don’t have health insurance, 2 million more than when George Bush became president. I’m proposing to create a national health insurance pool like the one that members of Congress get our insurance from. If you don’t have insurance now, you’ll be able to get it, probably free, if you’re among the low-income working poor. If you’re a child, you will be covered by insurance at birth. If you are fired from your work or lose your job, you will not lose your health insurance. MediKids is part of my program. Every child born in America will become a member of MediKids, and it will cover them from birth through 25. Why 25? Because young adults have a hard time affording health insurance, and a lot of them think they’re not going to get sick, but they do, and we need to cover them.
LIEBERMAN: Yes, unfortunately, we should. And I view this is as a kind of Boston Tea Party of the 21st century. I never attack the drug companies for what they produce. The pharmaceuticals that they produce keep us alive and well. But the pricing is unfair. And it is particularly unfair that Canada slaps price controls on, and our citizens have to pay the full cost of research, marketing, administration of the drug companies. If we begin to allow the legal importation of drugs from Canada, we can speak with our money to the drug companies to treat us more fairly.
Q: Are you encouraging governors and communities to break the law?
LIEBERMAN: We have to make it legal. I would vote, and I have voted for this in the Senate. I would allow the safe importation of drugs, which means to have some basic standards. But send a message to the drug companies: Treat American consumers fairly.
LIEBERMAN: Yes, I have supported measures to allow for the reimportation of drugs with an FDA approval that it is safe. [But] there’s something unfair happening. The American pharmaceutical industry are asking the American people, and the American people alone, to finance the research that leads to drugs. We’ve got to ask the Canadians who have price controls, the Europeans who have price controls, to begin to pay part of that cost.
LIEBERMAN: You bet parts of the Bush tax cuts would have to go, and they ought to go. But I disagree with Dean and others who would adopt so large a program that it would force an increase in middle-class taxes. That’s not fair. The middle class got the end of the marital tax penalty, child care tax credits and so on. I want to protect those, and we can, with a systematic step-by-step proposal.
We ought to start where Al Gore and I proposed in 2000: expand the children’s health insurance program and let their parents buy in to Medicaid at a cheaper rate then they can get in the private market. Step by step is the way to do it.
KUCINICH: We can phase in [an increase] in the payroll tax to 7.7% on all employers and have that be our mainstay of our national health care plan. We have to get the profit out of health care. And that means get the private insurance companies out of health care. Any plan that fails to do that is not going to deliver the best quality universal health care. I introduced HR676, Medicare for all: guaranteed, single payer, universal health care. It’s time to have health insurance for the American people, not the insurance companies.
Q: The Republicans are going to say there they go again, Democrats are raising taxes again. Is there anyone willing to rule out raising taxes?
LIEBERMAN: I am not willing to raise taxes to pay for health insurance in [that] way. All I am going to do is put the tax rate back to where it was when Bill Clinton was president, because we did a lot better under Bill Clinton than we are under George Bush.
GEPHARDT: My plan also stimulates the economy. And the Bush tax plan has not stimulated the economy. This will allow companies to hire new people. It will put money in people’s pockets, because we’re going to reduce the cost of their premiums for health care potentially having all that 60% go across to every employee.
Lieberman has also regularly voted for legislation to limit damages that can be assessed in civil lawsuits. Many of Lieberman’s friends said he had no alternative but to take this position because it was the one favored by the insurance industry. The industry is important to Connecticut’s economy and has generously donated to Lieberman’s campaigns.
But that is not Lieberman’s explanation for his stand. He said the American system of civil law had “gone way off track and become a lottery in which literally a few people do very well but most of the people injured don’t really get adequately compensated.”
One of those who has supported such measures in the past is Lieberman, who sided with Republicans in several balanced-budget votes in 1997 to raise the eligibility age and to impose increases in premiums and fees for some Medicare recipients. “It is important to put these votes in context,“ said Lieberman’s spokesman. ”At the time projections were that the system would be bankrupt in four or five years. Senator Lieberman and a lot of other people saw it as necessary to salvage the program.“
Lieberman voted last year against the recommendations of the bipartisan commission to further restrict eligibility and allow some additional charges for recipients. ”His recent record shows he’s very much in synch with the vice president,“ he said.
[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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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]:
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.
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)
Promote Universal Access and Quality in Health Care
That more than 40 million Americans lack health insurance is one of our society’s most glaring inequities. Lack of insurance jeopardizes the health of disadvantaged Americans and also imposes high costs on everyone else when the uninsured lack preventive care and get treatment from emergency rooms. Washington provides a tax subsidy for insurance for Americans who get coverage from their employers but offers nothing to workers who don’t have job-based coverage.
Markets alone cannot assure universal access to health coverage. Government should enable all low-income families to buy health insurance. Individuals must take responsibility for insuring themselves and their families whether or not they qualify for public assistance.
Finally, to help promote higher quality in health care for all Americans, we need reliable information on the quality of health care delivered by health plans and providers; a “patient’s bill of rights” that ensures access to medically necessary care; and a system in which private health plans compete on the basis of quality as well as cost.
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.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to provide for mental health screening and treatment services, and to provide for integration of mental health services and mental health treatment outreach teams.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. CLINTON: This bill is an effort to improve the accessibility and quality of mental health services for our rapidly growing population of older Americans. As we look forward to increased longevity, we must also acknowledge the challenges that we face related to the quality of life as we age. Chief among these are mental and behavioral health concerns.
It is estimated that nearly 20% of Americans age 55 or older experience a mental disorder. It is anticipated that the number of seniors with mental health problems will increase from 4 million in 1970 to 15 million in 2030. Mental disorders do not have to be a part of the aging process because we have effective treatments for these conditions. But in far too many instances our seniors go undiagnosed and untreated because of the current divide in our country between health care and mental health care.
That is why I am reintroducing the Positive Aging Act. This legislation would strengthen the delivery of mental health services to older Americans. Specifically, the Positive Aging Act would fund grants to states to provide screening and treatment for mental health disorders in seniors. It would also fund demonstration projects to provide these screening and treatment services to older adults residing in rural areas and in naturally occurring retirement communities, NORC's.
I believe that we owe it to older adults in this country to do all that we can to ensure that high quality mental health care is both available and accessible. This legislation takes an important step in that direction.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; never came to a vote.
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.
A bill to preserve access to Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program during an economic downturn.
|Other candidates on Health Care:
|Joseph Lieberman on other issues:
Retiring in 2014 election:
Retired as of Jan. 2013:
Senate Retirements 2014:
Senate races Nov. 2014:
AK: Begich(D) vs.Miller(R) vs.Treadwell(R) vs.Sullivan(R)
AR: Pryor(D) vs.Cotton(R)
CO: Udall(D) vs.Gardner(R) vs.
DE: Coons(D) vs.O`Donnell(R)
GA: Nunn(D) vs.Perdue(R) vs.
HI: Schatz(D) vs.Hanabusa(D) vs.Cavasso(R)
IA: Braley(D) vs.Ernst(R) vs.
ID: Risch(R) vs.Mitchell(D)
IL: Durbin(D) vs.Oberweis(R) vs.Hansen(L) vs.
KS: Roberts(R) vs.Tiahrt(R) vs.Wolf(R) vs.Taylor(D) vs.Orman(I)
KY: McConnell(R) vs.
LA: Landrieu(D) vs.Cassidy(R) vs.Maness(R)
MA: Markey(D) vs.Herr(R) vs.Skarin(I) vs.
ME: Collins(R) vs.D`Amboise(R) vs.Bellows(D)
MN: Franken(D) vs.McFadden(R) vs.Abeler(R) vs.Ortman(R)
MS: Cochran(R) vs.Childers(D) vs.
MT: Walsh(D) vs.Daines(R) vs.
NC: Hagan(D) vs.Tillis(R)
NE: Sasse(R) vs.Domina(D) vs.Haugh(L) vs.
NH: Shaheen(D) vs.Brown(R) vs.Smith(R) vs.Rubens(R) vs.Testerman(R) vs.Martin(R)
NJ: Booker(D) vs.Bell(R) vs.
NM: Udall(D) vs.Weh(R) vs.Clements(R)
OK-2: Lankford(R) vs.Johnson(D) vs.
OK-6: Inhofe(R) vs.Silverstein(D)
OR: Merkley(D) vs.Wehby(R) vs.
RI: Reed(D) vs.Zaccaria(R)
SC-2: Scott(R) vs.Dickerson(D) vs.
SC-6: Graham(R) vs.Hutto(D) vs.Ravenel(I) vs.
SD: Rounds(R) vs.Weiland(D) vs.Pressler(I)
TN: Alexander(R) vs.Carr(R) vs.Adams(D)
TX: Cornyn(R) vs.Alameel(D) vs.Roland(L) vs.
VA: Warner(D) vs.Gillespie(R) vs.Sarvis(L)
WV: Capito(R) vs.Tennant(D) vs.
WY: Enzi(R) vs.
Senate Votes (analysis)
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