Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

Each November, our country comes together to honor veterans who served our nation and remember those who paid the ultimate price in preserving our country's freedom. Throughout the history of our nation, brave men and women have answered the call of duty to defend democracy and protect the world from tyranny. From the War for America's Independence to today’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, our brave veterans have made unparalleled sacrifices for our country. I am inspired by the courage, professionalism, and patriotism of our men and women in uniform, and am eternally thankful for the sacrifices our troops and their families make for this nation.

Today on Veterans Day, we honor their service and pledge to fulfill our duty to provide earned benefits to these courageous men and women, as well as their families. Congress continues to work hard to pass legislation that honors our veterans’ commitment to our nation and ensures they have access to quality health care, education, and career opportunities. Any instance in which a veteran receives less than the best health care and services this country is able to provide is not only shameful – it's wrong. Caring for our veterans is a moral obligation our country must fulfill.

This Veterans Day is especially significant for Northeast Arkansas. Today, we honor the service and pray for the safe return of 200 recently reactivated service members from our own 875th Engineer Battalion. For those troops and families who make the sacrifice of service, please know that you are always in our thoughts and in our prayers. We are proud of the work you do to protect our freedoms, and are humbled by the sacrifices you and your families must make on behalf of our country.

From my family to yours, we wish all of our troops Godspeed in their return to the loving arms of your families. No other group of Americans has stood stronger and braver for our freedom than our military, especially our 875th. To all the veterans and their families—thank you for your courage, your character, and your strength. Every American owes you a debt of gratitude that words cannot repay.

Monday, November 09, 2009

H.R. 3962 Passes the House

I appreciate the thousands of Arkansans who have called, written, e-mailed, and met with me over the last several months to share their concerns about health care in this country. There is broad agreement that the cost of health care is currently unsustainable for individuals, families, small businesses, and taxpayers. Ensuring that American citizens have access to quality, affordable health care is critical to the long-term strength of our economy.

Throughout the current debate over health insurance reform, I have repeatedly stressed my principles for providing health care and prescription drugs to Americans through the private sector in a way that they can afford. I believe that health care reform must preserve the freedom of individuals to choose their own health plans and providers. I believe that reform should maintain competition among private plans within the marketplace, and that health care choices must continue to be made by physicians and their patients using the best available information. Above all, we must work in a bipartisan and a fiscally responsible way to make sure Americans have access to affordable, high-quality health care.

I voted for H.R. 3962, The Affordable Health Care for America Act, to move the process forward, not to endorse its entire content. This bill is not perfect; however, it represents significant progress in achieving more affordable and better quality health care. This legislation represents compromise among a wide variety of voices from vastly different regions of the country. It prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions, prohibits federal funding for abortion, and bars illegal immigrants from receiving federal benefits under the bill. In addition, I fought for and was successful in including several priorities for health care reform in this bill, including provisions to provide cheaper prescription drugs for seniors by requiring pharmaceutical companies to negotiate prices with Medicare and filling in the Part D “doughnut hole.” The legislation also preserves access for patients to receive durable medical equipment such as diabetic testing supplies from their local community pharmacist.

For too long insurance companies have found ways to cheat Americans out of the lifesaving care and procedures they desperately need simply because they were more interested in boosting their quarterly profits rather than providing care. One of the most important accomplishments of the House bill is that it puts an end to these practices and ensures that doctors and patients, not insurance companies, make health care decisions. There is no doubt that reform is needed to control rising health care costs, increase quality and value, and to improve access to coverage and care. This legislation is the next step toward that goal.