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Sen. Dan Coats addresses IDA concerns

12/12/2011

The Indiana Dental Association recently had the opportunity to ask U.S. Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) six key advocacy questions currently on the minds of IDA members. In the interview Sen. Coats outlined how current state and national legislation impacts the dental profession.

IDA: What is the biggest challenge that Congress is facing this session?

Sen. Coates: The challenge Congress and the White House face today is two-fold: (1) We need to get Americans working again, and (2) we need to get our fiscal house in order. Both of these goals are interdependent, and both have a major impact on every sector of our economy, including health care.

IDA: How is the budget deficit impacting health policy in the US and how does Congress intend to address it?

Sen. Coates: Until we put our fiscal house in order, all sectors of our economy, including the health care industry, are at risk. Over the last few months, a “Super Committee” of 12 individuals was tasked with identifying $1.5 trillion of deficit reductions by the end of November. As we all now know, this body failed to unite behind a bipartisan plan to cut spending.

As a result, the Budget Control Act will now activate a “trigger” mechanism that automatically enacts spending cuts across a large portion of the federal budget.

Under the trigger rule, an automatic spending cut of $1.2 trillion will begin in 2013. Social Security and Medicaid will be exempt from these cuts. While Medicare benefits will not be directly affected, the trigger will likely impose two-percent cuts to Medicare providers.  The trigger will also impose deep cuts in the defense budget, despite our military engagements overseas. Defaulting to this trigger mechanism will cut spending, but will not solve our core fiscal problems.

IDA: How will the proposed block granting of Medicaid funding affect Indiana’s dental Medicaid program?

Sen. Coates: Earlier this year, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) introduced a budget proposal that passed the House of Representatives.  Included in his budget proposal was a plan to change Medicaid to a block grant program.  The Ryan plan would allow states to have greater flexibility to tailor their Medicaid programs to the specific needs of their unique populations. 

I believe this is a good first step to begin a much-needed debate on the root causes of our country’s unsustainable debt. Medicaid must be restructured to better preserve benefits for Americans without bankrupting states and deepening our national debt. This proposal not only maintains current benefits but creates a sustainable policy for future generations.

IDA: How will Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) impact the provision of dental services to adults?

Sen. Coates: The President’s health care law increases costs for Hoosier families, reduces choices, burdens job creators and puts America deeper into debt.  I support the efforts of Indiana and other states that have filed lawsuits challenging the mandates imposed by the health care law.  Congress needs to overturn this law and start over with commonsense solutions that improve access and quality of care without driving up costs.  

The Department of Health and Human Services is currently in the process of releasing rules and regulations mandating how PPACA will impact the entire health care system.  What we do know is that the health care law increases Medicaid eligibility standards to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, which will increase an already large population of Medicaid patients struggling to find providers. This creates additional pressure on state budgets.

IDA : What are the prospects for Congress dismantling PPACA, and if it does, how will the federal government address the current Medicare and Medicaid systems?

Sen. Coates: The House of Representatives approved legislation to repeal this law on Jan. 19, 2011.  Despite my support, a Senate effort to repeal the law failed on Feb. 2, 2011.  I also voted in favor of House Concurrent Resolution 35 (H. Con. Res. 35) on April 14, which would prohibit the funding of PPACA.  Although the Senate failed to pass either H.R.2 or H. Con. Res. 35, I will continue to support efforts to defund and delay implementation of the law.  Should similar legislation to repeal or reform the health care law come before the Senate, I will continue to support a constitutional alternative in the best interests of the patients and the states.

While I support the full repeal of the health care law, it is unlikely that this Congress will be able to pass a repeal bill that the President would sign.  

Editor’s note

In addition to this interview, eight IDA members, along with IDA Executive Director Doug Bush, met with Sen. Coats at the 2011 ADA Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. The IDA is grateful to politicians on both sides of the aisle who help advance the dental profession and improve dental health for citizens.

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