Remembering his own father's fierce battle with tuberculosis, Congressman John Dingell has fought every day of his career to ensure that no American should suffer the fear he remembers from childhood, worrying whether his father would be able to see a doctor, or even survive. He understands the impact of serious illness on families in so many ways.
Health care for all Americans is an issue of both humanitarian and economic importance to the Congressman.He believes far too many Americans have suffered physical and mental damage as they live in fear of a crushing medical catastrophe or face bankruptcy due to debt from health care costs. He has also seen how rising health care costs have hurt the competitive position of American companies. The Congressman is quick to tell anyone "we make the finest products in the world, but companies are moving factories to countries where they are not burdened with devastating health care costs."
Whether he was presiding over the House of Representatives as Medicare passed in 1965, investigating the marketing strategies of drug makers in the 1980s, leading the effort to create the Children's Health Insurance Program in the 1990s, exposing waste and fraud in health care and streamlining health care delivery through health IT in the 2000's, or fighting for safe food, medical devices and drugs in this Congress, John Dingell has fought every day to ensure that quality and affordable health care is a right, not a privilege, for all Americans.
Throughout his entire career he introduced, H.R. 15, the National Health Insurance Act, at the start of each new session of Congress. This bill is based on the first universal health insurance bill, which was introduced by his father, John Dingell Sr., during his tenure in Congress.
As the Dean of the House and the Chairman Emeritus of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Congressman Dingell led the successful health care reform efforts during the 111th Congress, was the lead author of the House passed health care reform bill, the Affordable Healthcare for America Act (H.R. 3962), and sat beside President Barack Obama when he signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care for America Act into law.
Following the signing, Congressman Dingell noted the historical nature of the moment, saying
It was my great honor to sit alongside President Obama as he signed the first truly transformative piece of social reform legislation in the 21st century. I am convinced our nation is a healthier one today as we are now on a path to bring health insurance to 32 million Americans who now don't have it. Health care is no longer a privilege, it is now a right. Our forefathers embraced the idea of America as a "beacon" of freedom and liberty. The increasing lack of affordable and accessible health care had cast a very dark shadow over millions of Americans. This is dawn of a new day, one in which the quality of life in America – which my father, Ted Kennedy and so many others tried to improve over decades – just got a whole lot better.
Health Care Reform
On March 23, 2010 health care reform legislation authored by Congressman Dingell was signed into law. This new law provides affordable coverage for all Americans, through the largest middle-class health care tax credit in history, and by providing more choices of health insurance options. It holds health insurers accountable and ends the practice of insurance companies denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, prohibits rescissions of coverage, and eliminates lifetime caps on coverage.
The law strengthens Medicare by closing the Medicare Part D prescription Drug gap and providing free preventive and wellness care for Medicare beneficiaries. It also extends the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by at least nine years.
The health care reform law is fully paid for, and in fact reduces the deficit by $143 billion over the first ten years, and by $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
Our current food safety system is broken, as evident by a recent outbreak of salmonella that killed eight and sickened more than 600 Americans after eating contaminated peanut products. That is why Congressman Dingell introduced H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act, which will provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the necessary authorities and resources needed to adequately protect the nation's food supply. With broad bipartisan support, the House passed this landmark bill in July of 2009.
The legislation requires foreign and domestic food facilities to have safety plans in place to prevent food hazards before they occur, and increases the frequency of inspections. Additionally, it provides strong, flexible enforcement tools, including mandatory recall authority. Most importantly, this bill generates the resources to support FDA food safety activities.
Health Care for Our Children
Congressman Dingell was also pleased to be present when President Obama signed the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization on January 14, 2009, which ensured 11 million children will receive health care coverage. CHIP was created in 1997 to provide health care coverage for children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. It has proved to be a successful and cost-effective program for providing health care for uninsured kids. The Congressman helped write the original SCHIP legislation in 1997 and the reauthorization in 2009. 46,308 children were enrolled in Michigan's CHIP program (MIChild) in 2009 and the additional funds included in the 2009 CHIP reauthorization allow access for an estimated additional 70,000 children going forward.
The CHIP reauthorization provides resources for states to reach uninsured children who are today eligible for CHIP and Medicaid but not yet enrolled and improves benefits under the program, ensuring dental coverage and mental health parity. Additionally, this law is fully paid for and achieves savings by imposing restrictions on self-referral to physician-owned hospitals.
Investing in Our Future
Affordable and quality health care is key to strong economic growth. As such, Congressman Dingell fought for investment in our nation by supporting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which will lower health care costs and ensure broader coverage.
ARRA will bring our health care system into the 21st century with information technology, which will save billions of dollars, by taking key steps to ensure broader coverage in this recession.
This legislation will protect health care coverage for millions through Medicaid by providing an estimated $87 billion for 2009 and 2010 additional federal matching funds to help states maintain their Medicaid programs in the face of massive state budget shortfalls. ARRA also helps states avoid having families lose Medicaid coverage and scaling back the health care services provided during these difficult times.
The Act also provided temporary subsidies for unemployed workers to purchase health insurance coverage. Currently, laid-off workers, under the COBRA program, can buy into their former employer's health insurance. But the premiums are often prohibitively expensive. In order to help people maintain their health coverage, ARRA provided a temporary 65 percent subsidy for COBRA premiums for up to 9 months for workers affected by the recession. This premium was only available for workers who were involuntarily terminated through the end of May 2010. Congressman Dingell supports extending this subsidy and has worked with his colleagues to push for an extension through the end of 2010.
Additionally, the bill invests $1 billion in prevention and $1.1 billion in comparative effectiveness research.
Protecting Seniors' Access to their Doctors
Congressman Dingell is also a strong supporter and author of legislation that will permanently reform the way Medicare pays physicians—H.R. 3961, the "Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act". H.R. 3961 will repeal a 21 percent fee reduction scheduled for 2010 and replace it with a stable system that ends the cycle of threats of ever-larger fee cuts followed by short-term patches. Permanent reform of physician payments in Medicare will guarantee that Medicare beneficiaries continue to enjoy the excellent access to care that they do today.
The House passed this legislation in November 2009.
Ensuring the Safety of the Nation's Drug Supply
Congressman Dingell has long been concerned with the quality and safety of our nation's drug supply. In recent years, drugs marketed in the U.S. have increasingly been developed and manufactured abroad. However, FDA's ability to maintain proper oversight of an increasingly global drug supply has waned, and Americans have paid a terrible price for it. This is evidenced by the recent heparin scare of 2007. That is why Congressman Dingell introduced the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act of 2009. This legislation is a critical step toward equipping the FDA with the authorities and funding it needs to regulate what is now a global marketplace for drugs. The legislation provides the resources for increased foreign and domestic drug facility inspections, grants FDA authority to recall unsafe drugs, and requires drug manufacturers to proactively identify and mitigate risks throughout their supply chain.
H.R. 2 – Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act
H.R. 15 – National Health Insurance Act
H.R. 211 – Calling for 2-1-1 Act
H.R. 463 – Prevention First Act
H.R. 759 – Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act
H.R. 873 – Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act
H.R. 1203 – Federal and Military Retiree Health Care Equity Act
H.R. 1256 – Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act
H.R. 1346 – Medical Device Safety Act
H.R. 1691 – Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act
H.R. 1706 – Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act
H.R. 1721 – Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS Act)
H.R. 1740 – Breast Cancer Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act
H.R. 2749 – Food Safety Enhancement Act
H.R. 3961 – Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act
H.R. 3962 – Affordable Health Care for America Act