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Bill will reduce the deficit by as much as $1.2 trillion over 20 years.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan today voted for an historic bill to bring down health care costs for North Carolina families and support small businesses and seniors.

"The bill we passed today controls exploding health care costs, increases access to care and reduces our long-term deficit by as much as $1.2 trillion over 20 years," Hagan said. "We were headed in the wrong direction. Family premiums were projected to cost $24,000 per year by 2016.

"With this reform bill, we have reduced health care costs for families, seniors and small businesses for the long term, and families will have access to family doctors. It prevents insurance companies from dropping coverage when people get sick or denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the legislation will reduce the deficit by $138 billion in the first decade and by as much as $1.2 trillion over 20 years. The bill strengthens the health care reform law, which was signed by President Obama this week. It removes special deals from the law, such as extra Medicaid money for Nebraska, and closes the prescription drug "donut hole" for seniors. The bill will now go back to the House for a vote and then will be sent to President Obama for his signature.

In six months, North Carolinians will see the following benefits:

• Insurance companies will no longer be able to drop your coverage if you get sick;
• Young adults up to age 26 will be able to stay on their parents' plans;
• Children will not be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition; and
• Insurance companies will no longer be able to set lifetime limits on coverage.

How health care reform helps North Carolina families, seniors and small businesses:

• 1.7 million North Carolinians who do not currently have health insurance will now have access to a doctor;
• 112,000 North Carolina small businesses are eligible for a small business tax credit to make premiums more affordable, giving them the ability to offer insurance to their workers;
• 951,000 North Carolinians qualify for tax credits to help them purchase insurance;
• 247,000 North Carolina seniors who hit the prescription drug "donut hole" will receive a $250 check this year, and the gap will be completely closed by 2020;
• 1.4 million North Carolina Medicare beneficiaries will now have annual wellness visits and no cost-sharing for prevention services;
• 876,869 North Carolina young adults up to age 26 will be able to stay on their parents' insurance plans;
• Ensures access to preventive services for all North Carolinians with no copays or deductibles;
• Starting this year, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. There are 2.3 million children in North Carolina; and
• Ends the "hidden tax" that North Carolinians now pay for the $1.4 billion spent on uncompensated care that gets passed along to families. Each North Carolina family currently pays about $1,100 per year in hidden taxes for people without health insurance.

The health care reform law includes important sections added by Senator Hagan, which are summarized here:

• Help diagnose and reduce diabetes: Senator Hagan added the Catalyst to Better Diabetes Care Act of 2009 (S. 1473) to the health care reform bill. It is the second bill Hagan introduced and will fight the diabetes epidemic in America. It creates a national and state-by-state level Diabetes Report Card to track progress at beating the disease; requires the promotion of physician education on properly completing birth and death certificates; and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to collaborate with the Institute of Medicine to develop recommendations on appropriate levels of diabetes medical education that should be required prior to medical licensing and board certification.
• Help seniors follow medication regimens: Senator Hagan added a provision to reduce waste in the current system by expanding Medication Therapy Management Program (MTM) programs that allow pharmacists to evaluate a person's current drug regimen and educate them about their drugs one-on-one. North Carolina's version of MTM, Checkmeds NC, saved an estimated $10 million and helped more than 15,000 seniors during its first year.
• Address the shortage of doctors in rural communities: Senator Hagan included the Rural Physicians Pipeline Act (S. 1628), also sponsored by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), which addresses the shortage of primary care doctors in rural communities.
• Protect small family farms: Senator Hagan added an amendment to protect small family farms from new penalties under the legislation. Employers with less than 50 employees who do not provide health insurance are subject to penalties - $750 for each full-time worker. Because many small farmers hire seasonal workers for short periods during the year, they would have been unfairly subjected to penalties. The Hagan amendment removes these penalties for small family farms that hire seasonal workers for less than 120 days. They will also be eligible to receive small business tax credits to make premiums more affordable for their employees.
• Best practices for preventive medicine: Senator Hagan included an amendment to require the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of private-sector experts that assesses preventive medicine, to seek additional input from professional medical organizations and government agencies when making its recommendations. The task force currently does not confer with the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, specialty medical associations, patient groups and scientific societies, creating a disconnect in their best practice recommendations for preventive medicine.
• Create a pathway for generic biologic drugs: Working with Senators Mike Enzi and Orrin Hatch, Hagan also cosponsored an amendment that will create a regulatory pathway for generic biologic drugs. It lowers costs for consumers while providing sufficient intellectual property protections to encourage companies to continue to invest in innovative therapies to treat diseases such as diabetes.

The bill also includes crucial provisions to make college more affordable for families in North Carolina and across the country. Here is a summary of the education section:

• Invests $36 billion over 10 years to increase the maximum annual Pell Grant scholarship to $5,550 in 2010 and to $5,975 by 2017. North Carolina will serve an additional 15,000 students with the additional $891 million coming to the state from this provision;
• Invests $2.55 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). HBCUs in North Carolina will receive $116 million over 10 years;
• Provides $2 billion for a competitive grant program for community colleges to develop and improve educational and career training; and
• Saves taxpayers $61 billion over 10 years by switching to the cheaper Direct Loan program.

"This bill helps make college affordable for our families," Hagan said. "One of the most significant provisions for our students is the $2.5 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. North Carolina, has 10 outstanding HBCUs, and I am a strong supporter of investing in these important higher education institutions."



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