(Senate - July 20, 2011)

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[Page S4683]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                          HEALTHCARE FAIRNESS

  Mr. NELSON of Nebraska. Madam President, I rise today to speak about 
legislation that I believe is very important for the future of health 
care fairness in our country.
  Yesterday, I introduced the Savings Through Eligibility Fairness Act, 
which addresses Medicaid fairness and debt reduction. My friend and 
colleague from Wyoming, the ranking member of the HELP Committee, 
Senator Enzi, has a shared interest in this issue, and I commend and 
appreciate his offering of similar legislation and offer to continue to 
work with him to deal with and find solutions to this issue.
  Medicaid is an important safety net for Nebraska and our country's 
most vulnerable families. I am committed to making sure they will 
continue receiving health care coverage. Unfortunately, the health care 
reform law passed last year would inadvertently make some middle-class 
Americans eligible for Medicaid who should not be eligible for 
Medicaid. My bill changes the law to ensure that only the neediest 
Nebraskans and Americans would qualify for the Medicaid expansion and 
health exchange subsidies created by the health reform law.
  This simple, reasonable change has a significant impact: It saves $13 
billion. Let me repeat that--$13 billion worth of savings. My bill 
commits that $13 billion will be used to pay down the national deficit. 
As Washington debates various debt-reduction plans, my bill offers one 
concrete, commonsense way to reduce the national debt by $13 billion. 
We hear a lot of different ideas but not with the same level of 
concrete, commonsense approach.
  I regularly hear from Nebraskans who are already benefiting from the 
new health care law--children remaining on their parents' coverage, 
seniors closing the doughnut hole, and young people no longer being 
denied coverage because of preexisting conditions. Those are Nebraskans 
who are already benefiting from the new health care law. So 
improvements such as the one I have proposed will save money and help 
reduce the national debt, while still protecting health care for 
Nebraska and American families.
  In the current debate of how best to reduce spending and reduce our 
Nation's deficit, I believe Congress should start with this commonsense 
approach. It will maintain sensible eligibility requirements for the 
Medicaid expansion and health exchange subsidies rather than focusing 
on shifting costs to States, providers, and the people who rely on this 
most important program.
  Right now, most States do include Social Security income when 
deciding who will be eligible for Medicaid. So my legislation will 
maintain that definition for establishing eligibility for both Medicaid 
and health exchange subsidies. Keeping this same definition 
consistently will ensure Medicaid will not start down the path of 
covering middle-income families, which has never been the purpose of 
this program, nor should it be. Rather, Medicaid is part of a critical 
safety net for the most vulnerable and the most in need.
  Let me point out an important fact. Those who would no longer qualify 
for the Medicaid expansion would still be eligible to receive health 
insurance coverage through the State health insurance exchange and 
subsidies where appropriate. So they will receive the health care they 
need. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 
the savings through the Eligibility Fairness Act will have a negligible 
effect on the total number of individuals projected to be insured as a 
result of health care reform.
  Let me conclude and summarize by saying that Medicaid is an important 
health safety net for Nebraska and America's most vulnerable citizens. 
I am committed to preserving this program for more than 200,000 
Nebraskans out of 1.85 million who include children, seniors, pregnant 
mothers, and the disabled. I am committed to maintaining this coverage 
for these Nebraskans in this fashion.
  I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. MERKLEY. I ask unanimous consent to speak as in morning business 
for up to 10 minutes.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so