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John Kerry 2004 On The Issues - Affordable Heath Care For All

John Kerry 2004 On The Issues

Affordable Heath Care For All

 

Affordable, high-quality health care will keep our families healthy, our businesses competitive, and our country strong.
Over the last three years, family premiums have increased by more than $3,512 and prescription drug prices have grown four times faster than inflation. These skyrocketing costs have hurt our economy and forced many families into bankruptcy.

We deserve a president who understands that in America, regular check-ups shouldn't empty family checkbooks - a president who will put people ahead of insurance and drug companies.

John Kerry and John Edwards have a plan to address soaring premiums and cut Americans a break. Their plan will lower family premiums by up to $1,000 a year, cut waste from the system, lower the cost of prescription drugs to provide real relief to seniors, and use targeted tax cuts to extend affordable, high-quality coverage to 95 percent of Americans, including every child. And because John Kerry and John Edwards believe that everyone's health is equally important, they will provide all Americans with access to the same coverage that members of Congress give themselves.

To make affordable health care a right - not a privilege - for every American, John Kerry and John Edwards will:

Cut Your Premiums
John Kerry and John Edwards will cut family premiums by up to $1,000. That's $1,000 in real savings people can use to buy groceries, pay the bills, and save for their children's future. And that will mean more jobs and more competitive American businesses.

Cover All Americans With Quality Care
The Kerry-Edwards plan will give every American access to the range of high-quality, affordable plans available to members of Congress and extend coverage to 95 percent of Americans, including every American child. Their plan will also fight to erase the health disparities that persist along racial and economic lines, ensure that people with HIV and AIDS have the care they need, end discrimination against Americans with disabilities and mental illnesses, and ensure equal treatment for mental illness in our health system.

Cut the Cost of Prescription Drugs
The Kerry-Edwards plan will reduce prescription drug prices by allowing the re-importation of safe prescription drugs from Canada, overhauling the Medicare drug plan, ensuring low-cost drugs, and ending artificial barriers to generic drug competition.

Cut Waste And Inefficiency
Today, approximately 25 percent of health care costs are wasted on paperwork and administrative processing. The Kerry-Edwards plan harnesses American ingenuity to cut waste, save billions, and take new steps to ensure patient privacy.

 

A Plan To Protect And Strengthen Medicare And Social Security


John Kerry and John Edwards understand that Medicare and Social Security are important commitments to America's seniors. These programs ensure that America's elderly have access to affordable, quality, and reliable health care. John Kerry and John Edwards will work to protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security. They will also fight to provide a real prescription drug benefit that ensures access to affordable drugs for America's seniors.

A Plan to Strengthen Medicare

  • Create a Real Medicare Drug Benefit. George Bush passed a Medicare prescription drug bill that did nothing to stop soaring prescription drugs costs. John Kerry and John Edwards support a real, meaningful affordable drug benefit that doesn't force seniors into HMOs, is run by Medicare instead of private insurance companies that charge seniors whatever they want, and provides real relief to every senior no matter where they live.

  • Ensure Access To Affordable Prescription Drugs. The Kerry-Edwards plan will cut prescription drugs costs by (1) requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate better prices for prescription drugs, rather than paying the highest prices, (2) allowing reimportation of safe, FDA-approved drugs so that Americans can get the discounts on medications that are available in Canada and other countries, (3) requiring transparency rules for Pharmacy Benefit Managers that do business with the Federal government to reveal their profits from the drug industry and bulk purchasing, and (4) helping states provide discounts to other populations by giving them incentives to implement more efficient contracting to obtain better rates for prescription drugs.

  • Give Seniors Quality Options To Address Their Long-Term Care Needs. The Kerry-Edwards plan will ensure that seniors living in nursing homes receive quality care through adequate inspections and better training for health care workers. Their plan will also protect Medicaid from politicians who want to block grant the program, which would threaten access to the services seniors needs. Their plan will give seniors more options by allowing Medicaid to pay for alternative care options, which would allow more Americans to live comfortably in their homes with the freedom they want. Finally, the Kerry-Edwards plan will support caregivers (both paid and unpaid, formal and informal) who provide the bulk of the support for those with long-term care needs.


A Plan to Strengthen Social Security

  • Social Security Is A Lifeline For America's Seniors. 45 million Americans count on Social Security. Social Security represents 38 percent of the income of the elderly and lifts tens of millions of seniors above the poverty line. Currently, the poverty rate for seniors is 10.4 percent. Without Social Security it would be about 50 percent.

  • Social Security Faces Challenges - But They Are Manageable. Under current law, Social Security is projected to be solvent through 2042. Current law revenues would be sufficient to pay 73 percent of scheduled benefits after trust fund exhaustion in 2042.

  • The Three Pillars Of John Kerry's Approach To Strengthening Social Security:

    • Grow the economy. The Kerry-Edwards plan will jump-start growth today and invest in stronger long-run growth. A larger economy will be in a better position to pay for an increasing number of retirees.

    • Restore fiscal discipline. Social Security is part of the broader fiscal challenge facing America. The Kerry-Edwards plan will cut the deficit in half and restore fiscal discipline to Washington.

    • Bipartisan Process. Historically, successful reforms of Social Security and Medicare - like in 1983 and 1997 - have been accomplished on a bipartisan basis. As president, John Kerry will build on his strong record of working with Democrats and Republicans on fiscal issues to address Social Security's challenge.

  • John Kerry Will Never Balance The Budget On The Backs Of America's Seniors. As president, John Kerry will not raise Social Security taxes, raise the retirement age, cut benefits for people that rely on Social Security, or privatize Social Security. He will consider making sure that high-income beneficiaries don't get more out than they pay in.

A Plan For Stronger, Healthier Seniors


John Kerry and John Edwards believe that all Americans owe the members of the Greatest Generation a commitment to honor their service and their lives by protecting the programs they rely on, like Social Security and Medicare. As part of their Compact with the Greatest Generation, John Kerry and John Edwards will protect Social Security and Medicare while making prescription drugs more affordable and ensuring reliable long-term care.

Today, America's seniors are not getting the relief they deserve. They are paying too much for prescription drugs while more affordable and equally safe options are available in other countries and online. The current Medicare bill doesn't help. Riddled with waste and handouts to drug companies, it forces seniors into HMOs and allows drug companies to change the price of prescriptions, while leaving seniors stuck in their plan.

John Kerry and John Edwards will never put corporate interests ahead of the basic needs of the Greatest Generation. A central piece of the Kerry-Edwards Compact with the Greatest Generation will be overhauling the existing Medicare drug bill to provide better prices and fairer coverage.

Protect Medicare And Social Security. The Kerry-Edwards plan will:

  • Ensure quality care in all parts of the country. Sometimes Medicare policies treat certain parts of the country unfairly. John Kerry and John Edwards will ensure that seniors receive quality care no matter where they live.

  • Allow seniors to pick the plan that's right for them. John Kerry and John Edwards will never force seniors into HMOs to get prescription drugs or affordable premiums.

  • Fight privatization that causes benefit cutbacks.


Ensure Affordable Prescription Drugs. In the last year alone, prescription drug prices have risen by 17 percent, and the current Medicare bill provides little real relief. Under the new law, drug companies are free to change their prices and plans, even though seniors can change their cards only once a year. They receive big discounts from the government, but they're not required to report how much is actually being passed on to seniors. As a result, many popular drugs like Lipitor, Prevacid, and Zocor are more expensive with the discount card than they are on Drugstore.com.

John Kerry and John Edwards believe that seniors deserve real relief and real choices - right now. They he will never put drug company profits ahead of lower drug prices. The Kerry-Edwards plan will enact real cost containment measures to:

  • Allow re-importation of safe, FDA-approved prescription drugs to give Americans access to the substantial discounts available in Canada.

  • End artificial barriers to generic drug competition.

  • Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate better prices for prescription drugs, instead of paying whatever the drug companies choose to charge.

  • Require transparency rules for Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) that do business with the Federal government. PBMs process hundreds of millions of pharmaceutical claims per year and manage drug benefits for more than 200 million Americans. Under the Kerry-Edwards plan, these companies will be required to reveal the profits they make from the drug industry and show how much discounts are being passed on to seniors.

  • Help states provide drug discounts by giving them incentives to implement more efficient contracting in order to obtain better rates for prescription drugs.

  • Support a meaningful Medicare drug benefit that:

    • Doesn't force seniors into HMOs

    • Is run by Medicare, not private insurance companies that can charge seniors whatever they want

    • Provides special help for the highest drug costs


Provide Quality Options For Seniors With Long-Term Care Needs. Too often, seniors are forced into retirement homes because Medicaid doesn't offer enough flexibility for home and community-based care. The Kerry-Edwards plan will invest an additional $25 billion in state relief that will help:

  • Assure quality nursing home care with adequate inspections, reimbursements, and better training for health care workers.

  • Protect Medicaid from efforts to cut or block grant the program.

  • Give seniors more options by allowing Medicaid to pay for community and home-based care.

  • Support caregivers, paid and unpaid, who provide the bulk of the support for those with long-term care needs, by improving access to information, training, and respite and counseling services.

  • Invest in biomedical research including ethical stem cell research, that gives the potential for new treatments for chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and Parkinson's.

A Plan For Stronger, Healthier Families And Children


John Kerry and John Edwards believe that all American families are entitled to the security and peace of mind that comes from knowing their families have the coverage they need to stay healthy - without breaking the bank.

Over the last three years, the cost of family health insurance has increased by more than $3,512, and the portion paid by families has increased by almost 64 percent. Even today, millions of children lack basic coverage. John Kerry and John Edwards have a plan to cut health care costs for families, cut waste from the system, and ensure access to reliable, affordable coverage for 95 percent of Americans, including every American child.

Cut Family Premiums By Up To $1,000 For American Workers. Under the Kerry-Edwards plan, employers will benefit from offering their employees quality care with choices. By helping out with certain high-cost cases, the Kerry-Edwards plan will cut premiums by up to $1,000 per year for America's families.

Cover All Children And Millions More Adults. By extending state-based programs, the Kerry-Edwards plan will pick up the full cost of coverage for the more than 20 million children enrolled in Medicaid. In exchange, states would expand coverage for families up to 200 percent of poverty and for childless adults up to 100 percent of poverty. As a result, the Kerry-Edwards plan will extend reliable coverage to:

  • 26.7 million Americans who are currently uninsured

  • 95 percent of all Americans

  • Every child


Help All Americans Buy Into The Same Coverage As Members Of Congress. The Kerry-Edwards plan will give all Americans access to the same range of affordable plans currently available to members of Congress. This will provide more choices and better, more affordable coverage than is generally available to people without high-quality, employer-sponsored insurance.

Cut Prescription Drug Costs. In the last year alone, prescription drug prices have risen by 17 percent, a major cause of skyrocketing health insurance costs. To dramatically reduce the cost of prescription drugs, the Kerry-Edwards plan will overhaul the current Medicare bill to:

  • Allow re-importation of Prescription Drugs to give Americans access to the substantial discounts available in Canada.

  • End artificial barriers to generic drug competition.

  • Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate better prices for prescription drugs, instead of paying whatever the drug companies choose to charge.

  • Require transparency rules for Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that do business with the Federal government. PBMs process hundreds of millions of pharmaceutical claims per year and manage drug benefits for more than 200 million Americans. Under the Kerry-Edwards plan, companies will be required to reveal the profits they make from the drug industry and show that discounts are being passed on to seniors.

  • Help states provide discounts by giving them incentives to implement more efficient contracting in order to obtain better rates for prescription drugs.


Reduce Medical Malpractice Premiums. As president, John Kerry will require that a qualified specialist certifies a medical malpractice case's merit before it is allowed to move forward. He will also work with states to ensure the availability of non-binding mediation in all malpractice claims before cases proceed to trial. John Kerry will make the system fairer for doctors and patients alike by preventing and punishing frivolous lawsuits. Lawyers who file frivolous cases would face tough, mandatory sanctions, including a "three strikes and you're out" provision that forbids lawyers who file three frivolous cases from bringing another suit for the next 10 years. John Kerry also opposes punitive damages -- unless intentional misconduct, gross negligence, or reckless indifference to life can be established. Finally, John Kerry will work to eliminate the special privileges that allow insurance companies to fix prices and collude in ways that increase medical malpractice premiums.

Cut Taxes To Make Health Insurance More Affordable. The Kerry-Edwards plan will provide $177 billion in tax credits to make health care more affordable for people and businesses that buy into the new Congressional Health Plan. These credits include:

  • A 25 percent credit for seniors aged 55 to 64 whose salaries fall below 300 percent of poverty.

  • A 75 percent credit for people between jobs and whose salaries fall below 300 percent of poverty.

  • A tax credit of up to 50 percent for small businesses that cover low-to-moderate income workers.

  • A tax credit for workers not eligible for other provisions of the Kerry-Edwards plan. This credit would limit premiums to less than 6 percent of income for workers below poverty, then phase out to 12 percent of income for workers at 300 percent of poverty.

 


Cut Administrative Costs By Eliminating Waste, Fraud And Abuse. Today, about 25 percent of the annual cost of health care goes towards non-medical costs - mainly paperwork and other costs associated with preparing, submitting, calculating, and paying bills. Due to these costs, settling a single transaction can cost as much as $12 to $25. By comparison, a transaction in the banking industry costs less than a penny. Harnessing the power of American ingenuity and technological know-how, the Kerry-Edwards plan will save billions every year by:

  • Ensuring that all Americans have secure, private medical records by 2008, which will eliminate unnecessary tests and reduce serious medical errors by as much as 88 percent.

  • Giving health providers technology bonuses to simplify and streamline their paperwork - allowing patients to spend more time with doctors and less time filling out forms.

  • Require private sector insurers to use advanced systems. To make health care transactions less costly, private insurers would have to use this simplified technology standard as a condition of doing business with the Federal government (Medicare, Medicaid, and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program).

Giving Patients Real Protections Through A Real, Enforceable Patients' Bill Of Rights. The Bush administration has continued blocking bipartisan efforts to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights in Congress. They also sent their lawyers to the Supreme Court to stand with the HMOs and argue against giving patients the right to sue HMOs. As president, John Kerry will push for a real Patients' Bill of Rights to protect Americans from HMO decisions that harm patients by denying them necessary medical care - one that ensures patients have access to reliable, high-quality health care. Critical patient protections John Kerry and John Edwards will support include:

  • A right to see the specialists they need

  • A right to real emergency protections

  • A real external appeals process that allows patients to appeal a HMO decision

  • A right to hold health plans accountable

  • Whistleblower protections that allow health care workers to report quality problems without fear of retaliation

Quality Health Care For All


John Kerry and John Edwards believe that our shared belief in fairness and equality should drive us to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable, high-quality, and reliable health care. Today, too many Americans lack health care coverage for their ailments because of their income, their gender, the color of their skin, a mental illness, or a disability. We cannot allow this discrimination to exist in the greatest nation in the world. John Kerry and John Edwards will fight to ensure access to quality health care coverage for all Americans.

Pass a Real Patients' Bill of Rights

Ensuring that all Americans receive the care they need means creating a real Patient's Bill of Rights. It's time that doctors and nurses are put in charge of making medical decisions with their patients - instead of allowing HMO bureaucrats to determine the care Americans receive. Americans deserve the right to choose their own doctor and have access to the specialists they wish to see.

The Bush administration has continued blocking bipartisan efforts to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights in Congress. Worse yet, the Bush administration sent their lawyers to the Supreme Court to stand with the HMOs and argue against giving patients the right to sue HMOs.

John Kerry and John Edwards believe that the time is overdue for a real Patients' Bill of Rights - one that puts patients ahead of HMO profits. They will push Congress to pass a real Patients' Bill of Rights that allows Americans to hold HMOs accountable for decisions that harm patients by denying necessary medical care. Other critical patient protections John Kerry and John Edwards will support include:

  • A right to see the specialists they need

  • A right to real emergency protections

  • A real external appeals process that allows patients to appeal a HMO decision

  • Whistleblower protections that allow health care workers to report quality problems without fear of retaliation


End Minority Health Disparities

Our nation still struggles to close disparities in health care access, care, and outcomes. Today, minorities continue to live sicker and die younger in America. African Americans are one-third more likely than all other Americans to die from cancer and they have the highest rate of hypertension in the world. On average, Hispanic Americans possess the least insurance, with one in three possessing no coverage at all. Native Americans struggle with what can only be called an epidemic of diabetes, with rates near 50 percent in certain tribes. The tremendous gains that we have witnessed in science and medicine have benefited millions of our citizens, but too often they are out of reach for minorities.

John Kerry and John Edwards understand that the need is great and the time is now to improve the health of those Americans who have been left behind. They will work to eliminate minority health disparities by expanding health insurance to 95 percent of Americans and every American child, improving language access programs in medical facilities, and ensuring access to quality care through greater disease management and prevention efforts.

Ensure Mental Health Parity

Ensuring equality in health care also includes ending discrimination for Americans with mental illnesses. Many of us have friends, family members, co-workers, or neighbors who struggle with a mental illness. And while the good news is that scientific breakthroughs have made it possible for us to diagnose and effectively treat many mental illnesses, the bad news is that silent discrimination against these individuals is all too common in our society. Many Americans forgo treatment because of financial penalties in their insurance plans or fear of being stigmatized by others. John Kerry and John Edwards will fight for mental health parity to end all discrimination against those with mental illnesses - and to end the social stigma attached to mental illness.

Ensure Freedom, Independence, and Choices for Americans with Disabilities

John Kerry and John Edwards believe that we must fight to ensure that people with disabilities can meet their potential and fully participate in the American dream. They believe in an America that ensures freedom, independence, and choices for people with disabilities. As part of that vision, they will ensure access to affordable health coverage and remove barriers to work for Americans with disabilites. While we have made great strides by helping people with disabilities return to work without losing their health care, it's time to make sure that parents caring for children with disabilities can keep their jobs without worrying about paying for their kids' health care bills. John Kerry and John Edwards also support expanding the Medicaid program so people with disabilities have more options for community and home-based care. As president, John Kerry will work to implement the Olmstead decision to make personal assistance services and supports available to people with disabilities in their homes and communities - because no one should be kept in institutional care if they prefer to live elsewhere and can do so with the dignity they deserve.

Improve Women's Health

Nearly one in five women below the age of 65 lack health insurance. As the economy has lagged, states have been forced to cut Medicaid budgets and businesses have been pushed to trim health care coverage and benefits - with women disproportionately affected. John Kerry and John Edwards will ensure that women have access to affordable, quality coverage that provides specialty care and preventive services, as well as wellness check-ups for their children. And they will work to improve the economy and shore up our Social Security and Medicare programs, which predominantly serve America's women.

A Plan For Stronger, Healthier Businesses


Today, America's businesses face daunting challenges in providing employees with quality health care at affordable prices. The national health care system is riddled with waste and inefficiency, making it unreasonably expensive for employers to keep their workers covered and their businesses growing.

John Kerry and John Edwards believe that businesses should not have to compromise on coverage to stay competitive. By helping businesses reduce their costs, the Kerry-Edwards plan will provide relief for America's employers and workers.

Cut Premiums By Up To $1,000 For America's Workers. Paying for catastrophic care can pose enormous problems for businesses, especially small and medium-sized ones. Catastrophic injuries and illnesses are impossible to predict, and caring for them is extremely expensive. As a result, a single catastrophic case can drastically raise the price of health insurance for all the employees of a small business. To ease the burden of businesses in caring for catastrophic cases, the Kerry-Edwards plan will reimburse businesses for 75 percent of the cost of catastrophic care.

Taxes Credits To Cut The Cost Of Health Insurance By Up To 50 Percent. Under the Kerry-Edwards plan, small businesses will receive tax credits to help them provide health insurance for their low and moderate-income employees. The tax credit will cover up to 50 percent of the cost of the employers' share of the premiums. To be eligible, an employer offering the new Kerry-Edwards Congressional Health Plan will have to pay at least 50 percent of the health insurance premium.

Cut Administrative Costs By Eliminating Waste, Fraud And Abuse. Today, about 25 percent of the annual cost of health care goes towards non-medical costs - mainly paperwork and other costs associated with preparing, submitting, calculating, and paying bills. Due to these costs, settling a single transaction can cost as much as $12 to $25. By comparison, a transaction in the banking industry costs less than a penny.

Harnessing the power of America's ingenuity and technological know-how, the Kerry-Edwards plan will save billions every year by:

  • Ensuring that all Americans have secure, private medical records by 2008, which will eliminate unnecessary tests and reduce serious medical errors by as much as 88 percent.

  • Giving health providers technology bonuses to simplify and streamline their paperwork - allowing patients to spend more time with doctors and less time filling out forms.

  • Require insurers doing business with the federal government to use advanced systems. To make health care transactions less costly, private insurers would have to use this simplified technology standard as a condition of doing business with the Federal government (Medicare, Medicaid, and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program).

Reduce Medical Malpractice Premiums. As president, John Kerry will require that a qualified specialist certifies a medical malpractice case's merit before it is allowed to move forward. He will also work with states to ensure the availability of non-binding mediation in all malpractice claims before cases proceed to trial. John Kerry will make the system fairer for doctors and patients alike by preventing and punishing frivolous lawsuits. Lawyers who file frivolous cases would face tough, mandatory sanctions, including a "three strikes and you're out" provision that forbids lawyers who file three frivolous cases from bringing another suit for the next 10 years. John Kerry also opposes punitive damages - unless intentional misconduct, gross negligence, or reckless indifference to life can be established. Finally, John Kerry will work to eliminate the special privileges that allow insurance companies to fix prices and collude in ways that increase medical malpractice premiums.

Improve The Efficiency And Quality Of Care To Cut Administrative Costs. In the health care system, inefficiency and negligence can lead to serious injury and even death - as well as higher costs. A recent study by the Institute of Medicine found that between 44,000 and 98,000 people die of medical errors every year. These tragedies are preventable. The vast majorities of injuries are not caused by negligent doctors or hospitals, but because of outmoded practices, habits and systems that fail to adequately protect patients from harmful errors.

The Kerry-Edwards plan will offer a "quality bonus," enabling purchasers and providers to use upfront capital to upgrade quality and reduce errors to improve outcomes. It will also ensure that health care organizations and physicians that invest in advanced information technology are rewarded with financial incentives, including the funds needed to install computerized prescribing systems, which can reduce medication errors by 80 percent or more.

 

Source: John Kerry for President 2004 Web Site

 

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