Thursday, June 11, 2009

Anyone who doubted Senator Kennedy’s ability to introduce a comprehensive health reform bill this Congress, looked on with embarrassment Tuesday as the majority members of Kennedy’s Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee introduced a 615-page bill detailing the Committee’s plan to reform America’s health system.

The Affordable Health Choices Act details the ins-and-outs of the Committee’s plan and includes mechanisms to ensure quality, affordable health care for all Americans by improving the quality and efficiency of health care and preventing fraud and abuse, bettering the health care workforce, improving access to innovative medical therapies, and last but certainly not least, provisions to increase our emphasis on prevention.

Last year, Kennedy asked Senator Tom Harkin to help lead the prevention and public health aspects of health reform and there is no doubt that Title III of the bill, “Improving the Health of the American People,” is an answer to that charge.

This Title includes several provisions that, if enacted, would greatly increase our health system’s emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention. A number of the policies closely resemble those found in “Real Health Reform Starts with Prevention” (the song book Partnership for Prevention has been singing from for the past two years.)

The wellness and prevention policies include:

  • Creating the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council – The interagency council would provide coordinating and leadership at the Federal level with respect to prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices, the public health system, and integrative health care in the United States.*
  • Establishing a Prevention and Public Health Investment Fund – The fund would provide an expanded and sustained national investment in prevention and public health programs for no less than $10 billion for each fiscal year*
  • Expanding the charge of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force – Under the bill, the Task Force would be responsible for developing additional top areas of new recommendations and interventions including those for specific sub-populations, updating all recommendations every 5 years if not sooner, improving integration with the Federal Government, increasing the dissemination of their recommendations, and submitting annual reports to Congress. The bill also calls for increased coordinating with the Community Preventive Services Task Force and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.*
  • Authorizing and expanding the Community Preventive Services Task Force – Authorize the Task Force and expand it’s scope similar to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.*
  • Establishing an education and outreach campaign regarding preventive benefits.*
  • Enacting the “Right Choices Program” – This Program was first introduced in the Senate Finance Committee’s, “Reforming America’s Health Care System: A Call to Action.” The Program would provide low-income, uninsured Americans with a risk-stratified care plan and referral for treatment for any diagnosed illnesses.
  • Awarding community transformation grants – Secretary would award competitive grants to promote individual and community health and prevent the incidence of chronic disease.
  • Promoting healthy aging, living well for the pre-Medicare population (55-64 years of age)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would award grants for 5-year pilot programs to provide public health community interventions, screenings, and clinical referrals where necessary.
  • Increasing the use of immunizations – States would have the authority to purchase recommended vaccines for adults through government contracts and CDC would establish a demonstration project to improve immunization coverage by implementing evidence-based interventions*
  • Requiring nutrition labeling of standard menu items at Chain Restaurants and of articles of food sold from vending machines*
  • Increasing research on optimizing the delivery of public health services and providing an annual report to Congress on the research findings *
  • Support health impact assessments - Establishing a program at CDC to support the development and of health impact assessments and dissemination of best practices related to health impact assessments.*
  • Promoting employer-based wellness programs – CDC will study and evaluate best employer-based wellness practices and educate and provide technical assistance to employers.*

* Denotes policy options promoted in Partnership for Prevention’s “Real Health Reform Starts with Prevention” campaign, which includes policy recommendations, policy papers, and model legislative language.

While health reform is far from being complete, the Affordable Health Choices Act is an encouraging starting point for prevention and public health advocates.

A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, June 11 at 3 p.m. in 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building. The HELP Committee will begin mark-up on Tuesday, June 16 at 2:30 p.m. in 325 Russell Senate Office Building.

For more information on the bill see the Committee’s press release on the bill. Click here for section by section narrative of the bill and click here for a copy of the bill

Tracie Bryant
Congressional Liaison
Partnership for Prevention


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