11.20.09

A Message from Senator Burr

Health Care Update

As many of you are aware, Senate Democrats unveiled the latest version of the health care bill this week. The Senate will be voting on a motion to proceed to debate on this health care bill at 8pm tomorrow evening. This vote will require 60 votes to move the bill forward. I encourage my fellow North Carolinians to tune in to C-SPAN to watch the Senate debate today and tomorrow.

While I have not yet had time to review this 2,074 page bill in its entirety, what I have read so far makes clear that this bill is the wrong prescription for our nation's health care system. What concerns me the most is that this bill cuts Medicare benefits for seniors, increases taxes on small businesses, dramatically increases federal spending, and puts government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors. This bill also increases health care costs. The real ten-year cost of the bill when fully implemented - $2.5 trillion - poses a significant threat to our nation's fiscal situation. I encourage you to read the bill and the official score by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

I believe there is a better approach to health care reform, such as providing portability, eliminating pre-existing conditions, reforming our malpractice laws, and incentivizing wellness, prevention, and disease management. These measures would provide greater access and lower health care costs for Americans. That is why I introduced my own health care reform legislation called the Patients' Choice Act last May.

As an elected representative of the people of North Carolina, I have long believed that reform of our current health care system is necessary. Without any kind of reform, I fear that skyrocketing health care costs - which already consume one-sixth of our economy - will eventually destroy jobs and budgets as health insurance becomes increasingly unaffordable. I am committed to finding a solution that makes insurance affordable and accessible, but which also builds on what works in our current system. Any reform must continue to foster the medical innovation and quality that has made American health care the best in the world.

Unfortunately, the bill before the Senate is not the kind of health reform I can support, and it is not the kind of health reform that the American people want. I oppose the bill, and I will work to see it does not become law.

To watch my Senate floor speech outlining my concerns with this bill, please click here.

Other Senate News

In other news, the Senate voted unanimously to pass the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009. I applaud my Senate colleagues for passing such an important piece of legislation. Family caregivers play an important and unique role in helping to meet veterans' personal care needs and, too often, family members who serve as primary caregivers face significant challenges in caring for their loved ones.

This bill would strengthen support for caregivers and attendants of veterans and would help ensure veterans in need of institutional care have the choice of receiving care from a family member at home. The legislation also incorporates provisions from a number of bills introduced this Congress, including legislation that would greatly expand health care services for women veterans, improve veterans mental health care services and ease veterans' transition from active duty to civilian life. Also, the legislation takes important steps to improve the quality of care provided to veterans by encouraging highly-qualified doctors to fill positions in VA medical facilities.

Approving this bill is a step towards giving family caregivers the support they need, as well as giving our veterans better access to the quality care they deserve. It is my hope that this bill will speedily pass in the House and soon make it to the President's desk.

To watch my floor speech on the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, please click here.

Also this week, the Senate unanimously passed an amendment I offered to provide an additional $750,000 for services for homeless veterans. The funding allocated by this amendment will benefit the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Homeless Provider Grant and Per Diem program and VA's Supportive Services Grants program. This money will go to help more than 131,000 veterans who are homeless on any given night including the estimated 1,659 homeless veterans in North Carolina. Our veterans served our country with honor, and they should not be forgotten when they return home. Helping homeless veterans get off the street and back on their feet is our obligation, and this funding is an important step in that direction.

On Wednesday, S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, passed out of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). This bill strengthens and modernizes FDA's tools to better protect our nation's food supply and improves the ability of the FDA to quickly and effectively respond to food-borne health threats. Americans are all too familiar with the nationwide outbreaks and recalls in recent years. In addition to the health concerns, these incidents also had a significant economic impact on American growers and producers across our nation. This piece of legislation is essential to protect our nation's food supply and keep Americans safe and healthy.

This bill also includes a bipartisan amendment I authored that would address concerns expressed by farmers and small businesses by ensuring consultation, education, and outreach on behalf of the FDA with farms, businesses, and farmers who sell directly to consumers to help them understand and comply with produce safety requirements. This amendment, which would require the FDA to hold public meetings in various locations across the country, has been endorsed by the American Farm Bureau. Now that it has been approved by the HELP Committee, this bill will head to the Senate floor for debate and a vote.