Senator John F. Kerry returned in between votes to Massachusetts today to declare that the bill the Senate is about to pass would reward, rather than penalize, the state for leading by passing its own health reform in 2006.
"We are on the verge of passing health insurance reform legislation that will put patients ahead of profits and will protect rather than penalize Massachusetts for already having led the nation in reform. The Majority Leader has agreed to include a provision that will provide Massachusetts with additional federal funds for Medicaid for the next three calendar years -- roughly $500 million -- that's half a billion dollars more than we otherwise would have had. And our congressional delegation has worked closely with Senator Reid to make sure Massachusetts' reforms are not only protected, but are enhanced," Kerry said during a visit to Children's Hospital Boston.
Since Massachusetts passed its bill in 2006, requiring individuals to get health insurance, more than 400,000 residents have been added to the insured rolls, giving the state the lowest rate of uninsured at 2.7 percent. Several elements of the Massachusetts law have been incorporated into the bills working their way through Congress.
Kerry's full prepared remarks are below:
Thank you for allowing me to make this "house call" today. The work you are doing is the ultimate reminder of exactly who and what we are fighting for in Washington as we come closer than ever to passing health reform.
We're a day away from a vote that will clear the way for us to reform our health care system so that virtually all of our citizens have access to care in a system that puts people ahead of profits.
And I'm here with some very good news -- to announce that under the reforms we're about to pass in the Senate, Massachusetts has secured an enormous victory.
Because of our extraordinary commitment and achievements in health care reform, Massachusetts stood to gain nothing under Medicaid funding formulas. And Massachusetts had already used significant state resources to expand Medicaid beyond what is already required.
I can announce today not just that Massachusetts will not be penalized for having already reformed its health care system but that the Majority Leader has agreed to include a provision that will provide Massachusetts with additional federal funds for Medicaid for the next three calendar years -- roughly $500 million -- that's half a billion dollars -- more than we otherwise would have had.
None of the reforms Massachusetts enacted in 2006 will be undone by the Senate's health care bill. In fact, I've worked closely with Senator Reid to make sure our reforms are not only protected, but are actually enhanced in several ways:
We preserve the ability of the Health Connector to be the exclusive Exchange in Massachusetts.
We retain all our consumer protections, like preventing insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
We provide federal subsidies to individuals and families with incomes up to 400 percent of poverty (or $43,320 for individuals and $88,200 for families of four). Massachusetts currently provides subsidies to individuals and families with incomes up to 300 percent of poverty (or $32,490 for individuals and $66,150 for families of four).
We extend tax credits to small businesses, including nonprofits, that have less than 25 employees and which offer health insurance.
We expand preventative and home care services.
We reduce drug prices for seniors caught in the Medicare Part D doughnut hole and we hope to close it completely before we?re done.
And we protect the State Children's Insurance Program through 2015, after which children can be moved into commercial plans only if the benefits are comparable to CHIP benefits.
We're still pushing for another change - an amendment that will raise Medicaid payments for pediatric services to no less than 80 percent of what Medicare pays for the same service in 2010, 90 percent in 2011, and 100 percent in 2012 and subsequent years. Medicaid typically pays 71 percent of what Medicare would pay for the same services.
I can't let this opportunity pass without expressing pride in how our reforms in Massachusetts have made a big difference in the lives of our people.
I'll share one example. When Abbie von Schlegell moved from Maryland to the Berkshires in 2007, she wasn't optimistic about getting health insurance. She had tried before leaving Maryland, but was denied because of her medical history -- deep vein thrombosis and asthma.
But after moving to Massachusetts, she thought she would give it another try. She learned about the Health Connector, went on-line and in short order ended up with a health plan that was affordable and met her health care needs.
This kind of success story can be repeated millions of times each day in every city, town and state in this country.
The reform measure the Senate is debating is not perfect. No legislation is. But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not going to be the last word on health care in this country. We'll keep pushing for even more reforms ahead.
We are here today in large measure because of Ted Kennedy. Health care was the cause of his lifetime. It will also be the cause of a lifetime for others to come -- perhaps some here today -- and I'm confident that cause will be fought as long as any American citizen needs health care.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.