Susan Collins on Health Care
Republican Jr Senator (ME)
A: Congress needs to take steps to improve Medicare's financial condition. We should improve transparency so that patients know in advance the cost of any medical procedure or prescription drug. Another way to achieve program savings is to combat the high cost of prescription drugs. That's why I support putting a cap on the out-of-pocket costs that seniors pay under the Medicare program. We can also help reduce costs by assisting seniors in managing diseases such as diabetes.
Collins: I've authored multiple laws to help Americans struggling with the high cost of medications, including a law that bans 'gag clauses,' which prevented pharmacists from telling their patients when there might be a way to save money on their prescriptions. I support promoting competition, increasing transparency and banning the anticompetitive practices such as pay-for-delay. I support capping the amount that seniors pay out of pocket for prescription drugs.
Collins: Expanded access to home health care allows many seniors to stay right where they want to be: in the comfort, privacy and security of their own homes. I've always been a strong supporter of home care. My Home Health Planning Improvement Act was recently signed into law as part of the COVID-19 response. It will improve Medicare beneficiaries' access to home health care, removing needless delays.
As the founder and Co-Chairman of the Senate Diabetes Caucus and the Co-Chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's, Senator Collins has led bipartisan efforts in Congress to boost funding for the National Institutes of Health.
[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)
H.R. 1181 the Health Insurance Affordability and Equity Act
With 40 million Americans currently living without health insurance, Republican Main Street Partnership members have been leading the effort to find new and innovative ways to secure health care for our citizens. Easing the burden on businesses entering into insurance purchasing pools, and expanding the use of medical savings accounts (MSAs) have been included in previous economic stimulus packages. RMSP Congresswoman Nancy Johnson (CT) in conjunction with Representatives Jo Ann Emerson (MO), Melissa Hart (PA), Jim Kolbe (AZ), Connie Morella (MD), Doug Ose (CA), Marge Roukema (NJ), Rob Simmons (CT), Fred Upton (MI), and Jim Walsh (NY) introduced legislation that targets tax credits to those that are not offered employee provided health insurance, or are self employed.
H.R. 831/S. 621 the Long Term Care and Retirement Security Act.
Republican Main Street Partnership Senators Lincoln Chafee (RI), Susan Collins (ME), and Gordon Smith (OR) joined House of Representatives sponsors Reps. Charlie Bass (NH), Dave Camp (MI), Tom Davis (VA), Greg Ganske (IA), Ben Gilman (NY), Dave Hobson (OH), Steve Horn (CA), Nancy Johnson (CT), Sue Kelly (NY), Ray LaHood (IL), Connie Morella (MD), Deborah Pryce (OH), Jim Ramstad (MN), and Rob Simmons (CT) in securing health insurance for seniors and those in long-term care facilities. As new medicines and healthier lifestyles are extending life, more and more Americans need to prepare for their long-term health needs. This legislation allows a tax deduction on long-term care insurance premiums for taxpayers, including accelerated deductions persons for people 55 years of age and up.
H.R. 2706, The Medicare Telehealth Validation (MTV) Act.
Republican Main Street Partnership members Congressman Doug Ose (CA) and Jo Ann Emerson (MO) have introduced this bill to increase the use of telehealth services under the Medicare program. Currently, telehealth services are restricted to use in certain geographically underserved areas. The MTV Act provides sufficient funding and regulatory relief to expand high technology medical diagnostic tools, across the Internet, to urban as well as rural underserved areas. The bill further provides for expansion of store-and-forward techniques, and for a study of the restrictions on telemedicine due to state licensing rules.
Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
One of issues to be addressed this year by Congress is that of providing a prescription drug benefit to our nation's Medicare beneficiaries. Legislation currently being drafted [by Republican Main Street Partnership members] intends to authorize $350 billion over the next 10 years to provide purchasing assistance for prescription medications. The benefit reaches out to low and moderate income seniors by extending coverage to incomes up to 150% of the poverty level. The bill could also include provisions to correct reimbursement reductions for physicians, nurses, hospitals, technicians, home health care providers, and long-term care facilities.
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.
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.
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.
Congressional Summary:The purpose of this Act is to increase diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, leading to better care and outcomes for Americans living with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Congress makes the following findings:
Proponent's argument for bill: (The Alzheimer's Association, alz.org). The "Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer's Act" (S.709/H.R. 1507) is one of the Alzheimer's Association's top federal priorities for the 113th Congress. The HOPE for Alzheimer's Act would improve diagnosis of Alzheimer's diseas
Congressional Summary: To provide an additional religious exemption from the individual health coverage mandate. This Act may be cited as the 'Equitable Access to Care and Health Act' or the 'EACH Act'. The 'Religious Conscience Exemption' exempts individuals who are members of a recognized religious sect which relies solely on a religious method of healing, and for whom the acceptance of medical health services would be inconsistent with their religious beliefs.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: (TheHill.com weblog, April 29, 2013): "We believe the EACH Act balances a respect for religious diversity against the need to prevent fraud and abuse," wrote Reps. Aaron Schock (R-IL) and William Keating (D-MA). "It is imperative we expand the religious conscience exemption now as the Administration is verifying the various exemptions to the individual mandate," they wrote. Religious exemption from ObamaCare has come up before, including contraception. The EACH Act, however, deals only with exemptions from the insurance mandate.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (CHILD, Inc. "Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty", Dec. 2014): The Christian Science church is pushing hard to get another religious exemption through Congress. The EACH Act exempts everyone with "sincerely held religious beliefs" from the mandate to buy health insurance. We are particularly concerned about uninsured children: hundreds of American children have died because of their family's religious objections to medical care. The EACH Act increases the risk to children in faith-healing sects and the cost to the state if the children do get medical care. Some complain that their church members should not have to pay for health care that they won't use. But insurance works on the assumption that many in the pool of policyholders will not draw from it. Most people with fire insurance don't have their homes burn, for example.
A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for the treatment of autism under TRICARE. Revises TRICARE (a Department of Defense [DOD] managed health care program) to authorize treatment of autism spectrum disorders, if a health care professional determines that such treatment is medically necessary.
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