Medical breakthroughs, quality health care services, healthier lifestyles and miracle drugs are helping advance longevity rates and expectations among Americans. Health care ranks among the public’s most important policy issues. First and foremost, it's a matter of life and death. It's also an economic anchor and major employer in many communities. The U.S. health care system rings up $2.2 trillion in annual spending.
From Senator Grassley's senior position on the Senate Finance Committee, he works to find policy solutions that will make health care coverage more affordable and health care services accessible and accountable. In recent years, Congress responded to grassroots messages calling for portability of health insurance, curbing practices that denied coverage for pre-existing health conditions and creating a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
In 2003, Senator Grassley steered through Congress the first-ever, comprehensive, voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit. The public health insurance program for seniors and disabled individuals now has 39 million beneficiaries who are enrolled in Part D.
Senator Grassley also says consumers shouldn’t have to second-guess what’s in their medicine cabinets, and he's been riding hard on the Food and Drug Administration to improve its surveillance system to ensure the safety of drugs once they’ve reached the marketplace. He also wants better labeling standards that give consumers the information they need to know, such as risks associated with anti-depressant medications prescribed to youth and Tylenol, as examples.
Representing Iowa in the U.S. Senate allows Senator Grassley to wear his advocacy for Rural America on his sleeve. He has long championed federal policy (such as fixing flawed federal reimbursement formulas) that will help keep hometown hospitals and community health care centers open for business and able to recruit and retain high quality health professionals. He works to help improve quality of care standards and ensure patients and taxpayers get the most bang for their buck; ensure rural pharmacies get fair treatment under Medicare Part D; root out improper payments in the Medicare and Medicaid programs; strengthen federal standards regulating physician-owned hospitals; and strengthen enforcement and oversight of federal nursing home standards.
After a seven-year campaign by Senator Grassley, the bipartisan Family Opportunity Act made it to the President’s desk. Signed in 2006, the law encourages parents to work and get ahead without sacrificing health coverage for their children with special needs. It allows parents to buy Medicaid coverage without impoverishing their families.
Senator Grassley continues to work to identify achievable solutions that will expand coverage to the 47 million uninsured. Health care services provided to the uninsured results in costs shifted to paying customers and private insurers.
Senator Grassley last year continued his longstanding efforts for rural health care by authoring a major reform to the Medicare formula used to reimburse physicians and other health care professionals in rural areas, and it became law this year. Grassley’s formula fix was added to the health care legislation during Finance Committee consideration of the proposal and improved the Senate bill’s provisions for rural health care. Grassley said these formulas are fundamentally important to how well Medicare works for beneficiaries in rural states. This year, Grassley has continued to work to ensure physician access for beneficiaries, most recently with legislation he cosponsored that was enacted in July to reverse the 21-percent payment cut that was jeopardizing access to physician services for Medicare beneficiaries.
From a senior position in the U.S. Senate, Senator Grassley presses on for health policy that helps individuals afford coverage; promotes wellness, preventive care and disease management; takes into account the financial impact on employers, small businesses and taxpayers; and, steers Americans to become conscientious consumers of the health care system.