Despite legislation's flaws, senator declares it will have his vote
March 24, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. – For the first time ever this country is recognizing that Americans have a right not to be financially destroyed if they get sick.
That was the poignant assertion made today by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who announced on the Senate floor this afternoon that despite his misgivings and the health-care legislation’s flaws he would vote for its passage.
“We are not put on Earth for ourselves, but we are placed here for each other,” Nelson said in a seven-minute speech on the floor. “Here we are - debating legislation that stands to improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans. And so, despite its flaws, I will vote to pass this legislation.”
Nelson, who had been considered by some to be a possible swing vote, made his declaration just at the outset of the Senate starting its deliberations on changes to the health care bill signed into law by President Obama yesterday.
Nelson voted for the first health-care bill signed by the president. But previously he had expressed concerns that some of the changes in this new legislation weren’t to his liking, including one that could cost several hundred jobs in north Florida. Nelson said today that passage of the bill doesn’t mean that efforts can’t still be made to fix the bill.
Nelson blasted the legislation for not doing enough to make drug makers reduce the cost of prescriptions or pay their fair share for the cost of health care reform.
Last December, Nelson had offered an amendment that would have forced the pharmaceutical industry to give up extra profits worth some $106 billion over 10 years. But the powerful drug lobby defeated it.
Another concern of Nelson’s was Medicare Advantage policies. Some 10 million seniors nationwide have signed up for private Medicare Advantage plans in recent years, and the original Senate health care bill would have taken away a lot of benefits for folks with those policies.
Nelson offered an amendment last October that sought to prevent cuts and eliminate excessive reimbursements for insurers. The amendment passed in the Senate Finance Committee, and later in the full Senate.
However, in the proposed changes coming up for a vote, the White House has offered language that would substitute for Nelson’s amendment. On Wednesday, Nelson wrote the president a letter thanking him for addressing the issue.
“I’m pleased your approach seeks to be fair to seniors,” Nelson wrote, “which is exactly what I hoped to accomplish with my amendment to the Senate bill.”
The president’s proposal abolishes the Senate bill’s competitive bidding system and instead takes into account local medical costs. As a result, Nelson wrote, it’s still evenhanded. It doesn’t provide higher reimbursement to seniors in low-cost states at the expense of seniors in states like Florida.