Bill Nelson supports health care reconciliation package

03/24/10 Seán Kinane
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Florida’s senior U.S. Senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, says he will vote for the package of health care reform fixes passed Sunday by the House. Nelson says the reform will “improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans”

*“I want to say that this reconciliation bill deepens and extends the promise of health-care reform and the health care reform bill that was signed into law just yesterday. … Therefore, despite its flaws, I will vote to pass this legislation.”*

Despite what Nelson calls “misinformation” about how the health reform law affects Medicare, he says Medicare is protected. In the law, private insurance companies will get lower payments for an optional program called Medicare advantage.

*“Fact is, the original Senate bill proposed an unfair way to fix over-payments to these private Medicare HMO insurance plans. The fix would have come at the expense of seniors living in areas with high medical costs, such as my state of Florida. I was able to pass an amendment in committee that fixed that problem fairly. Under this bill, this reconciliation bill, the president has proposed another way to rein in Medicare advantage insurance companies – one that upon close inspection also treats seniors fairly. It puts companies on the hook for their performance. If they don’t provide quality service, their reimbursements are cut. And their enrollees – the seniors – are going to demand that they provide quality service.”*

But Nelson thinks that there is still something left undone in the bill that has been signed and in the reconciliation package being considered by the Senate – the doughnut hole of prescription drug coverage.

*“I’m not happy that this legislation lets drug makers pretty much off the hook. You all know that over the past few years I’ve been voicing the concerns and fears of residents in my state about what’s been happening to their drug prices. I also hear from folks who can’t afford their medications when they hit the prescription drug coverage gap known as the doughnut hole. They skimp on food, or split their pills, or stop taking them altogether. And while this bill offers a discount to seniors in the doughnut hole, there’s nothing to keep drug companies from continuing to jack up their prices until that discount is meaningless.”*

Nelson is supporting the reconciliation fixes, in part, he says, because it will hold insurance companies accountable.

*“We’re finally telling them – you can’t drop someone just because they get sick. You can’t cap someone’s benefits just because you’re tired of paying for their care. And you can’t decide not to offer someone coverage because they have a preexisting condition. We’re telling them: no more; no more; no more.”*

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