WASHINGTON, D.C. - February 14, 2011 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that Iowa college students can now apply for summer 2011 internships in his Washington, D.C. and Iowa offices.  An internship in Harkin's personal office, or with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, is designed for college undergraduates, graduates, and law students.  Interns gain a valuable and unique education about the federal legislative process, while assisting the staff in the areas of legislation, press, casework, and outreach to the state.  Intern responsibilities include performing office duties, writing and researching current legislative issues and acting as general support to the Senator's staff.

"My own political career started with an internship.  Years ago, when I interned for Representative Neal Smith in the House of Representatives I learned firsthand how government operates.  It was an invaluable experience, one that I encourage all young men and women who share this interest in public service to experience," Harkin said.

Part time and full time internships are available in Harkin's Washington, D.C. personal office, on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee that Harkin chairs, and in his five Iowa offices (Des Moines, Davenport, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City).  Interns typically work during one of three sessions: spring, summer and fall.

Students who are interested in becoming an intern can apply via the web at http://harkin.senate.gov/students/intern.  Questions can be directed to the intern coordinator in Harkin's Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3254.  The deadline to apply for a summer internship with the HELP Committee is March 4, 2011, the deadline for Harkin's D.C. personal office is March 11, 2011 and the deadline for state offices is April 15, 2011.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today commended Norwalk native Randy Frescoln as he begins a one-year assignment in Afghanistan to help rebuild the agricultural sector there.  Frescoln is one of 56 USDA employees serving in Afghanistan, where the growth of the agricultural sector is considered a key piece of the U.S. government's strategy to stabilize the country.   

"Our mission in Afghanistan is about much more than our military operations, but also requires that we stabilize the country in hopes that it can chart a different path for the future.  Critical to this effort is rebuilding the nation's agriculture sector.  I commend Randy Frescoln and all the individuals who are taking time to help in this mission," said Harkin.  "Randy is a great example of a selfless Iowan serving his country. He has been an indispensable member of Iowa's Rural Development team and I wish him all the best in his new role.  We look forward to his safe return home upon completion of this important work."

Frescoln has most recently served as Business and Cooperative Program Director with USDA Rural Development in Des Moines.  He received a Bachelor of Science degree in farm operations as well as a Master of Science degree in professional agriculture, both from Iowa State University in Ames.  Formerly, Frescoln served as a USDA agricultural expert in Afghanistan from 2004-2005, as well as in Iraq from 2006-2007.  In Iraq, Frescoln led a variety of programs in collaboration with the U.S. military, the Department of State and Iraqi agricultural officials and universities.  

According to USDA, since 2003, employees deployed to Afghanistan have served as agricultural experts within civilian-military units.  USDA agricultural experts work side by side with Afghans and U.S. government and international partners in 24 of Afghanistan's 34 rural provinces.  At the provincial and district levels, USDA agricultural experts train local government representatives and Afghan extension workers in plant and animal health, natural resources management, and improved cultivation and production methods.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that the University of Iowa has been awarded two separate grants totaling $949,079 to perform medical research.  The funding was awarded by the National Institutes of Health.  Senator Harkin is Chairman of both the Senate Health Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee that funds health and medical research programs.  

"Today's funding will help the University of Iowa stay at the forefront of critical medical research," said Harkin. "These projects will accelerate research in their respective areas, and help improve our understanding of the afflictions so many Americans face.  Congratulations to the University on receiving this funding."  

Information on the grants follows.

$374,100 for allergy, immunology and transplantation research. Specifically, the funding will be used to study ECF Sigma Factors and the Cell Envelope Stress Response of Clostridium difficile.  The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is the awarding agency.

$574,979 for mental health research. Specifically, the funding will be used to study Combined Illness Management and Psychotherapy in Treating Depressed Elders. The National Institute of Mental Health is the awarding agency.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) today made the following comments on the Senate floor about the importance of health reform and the consequences of repealing the law. The Senate is expected to vote on a Republican amendment that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, the health reform bill that was signed into law last year. Repeal would deprive millions of Americans of important protections against insurance companies, raise health costs, cut funding to rural hospitals in Iowa, and, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, increase the federal deficit by $230 billion by 2021.  Harkin's remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.  Harkin is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, as well as the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Mr. President, if there is one clear message that voters sent in the past election, it is that they want Democrats and Republicans in Congress to cut out the bickering and partisanship, and to focus like a laser beam on boosting the economy, creating jobs, and reducing the deficit.  

"So I find it absolutely astonishing that the Republicans' No. 1 priority - their obsession - in these opening weeks of the new Congress is to launch bitter new partisan attacks on the new health reform law, and to attempt to repeal it - something that would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and add $240 billion to the deficit over the next decade.

"It would be sufficient to oppose this reckless amendment strictly on budgetary grounds.  As I said, it would add $240 billion to the deficit in the first decade, and nearly $1 trillion in the second decade.  The sponsors of the amendment have proposed no offsets whatsoever.  So for all the Republicans' crocodile tears over big budget deficits, their first action in the new Congress is to propose adding nearly a quarter trillion to the deficits over the next 10 years!

"The Congressional Budget Office is our only objective, nonpartisan referee when it comes to budget projections.  CBO has told us, in no uncertain terms, that the McConnell amendment will add $240 billion to the deficit.

"The Republicans' lame response is to attack the credibility of CBO and to claim that the hundreds of billions in budget savings thanks to the new health reform law are supposedly based on "gimmicks."  That is complete nonsense.  The budget savings in this new law are real.  If anything, CBO has underestimated the savings that will come about as a result of the robust wellness and prevention provisions in the new law - provisions that will keep Americans healthy and out of the hospital in the first place.

"I would simply add that if the savings in the new law were based on gimmicks, then those gimmicks would certainly show up by the second decade of the law's implementation.  That's the nature of gimmicks - they eventually get exposed.  But the savings in the new law actually skyrocket in the second decade to nearly $1 trillion.   So to wildly assert that the savings are based on gimmicks is flat wrong; it is irresponsible.

"Let's be clear, the Republicans' obsession with repealing the new health reform law is not based on budgetary considerations.  It is based strictly on ideology.  They oppose the law's crackdown on abuses by health insurance companies.  And they oppose any serious effort by the federal government to secure health insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans who currently have none.  

"We all remember William Buckley's conservative motto.  He said that the role of conservatives is "to stand athwart history yelling stop!"

"In 1935, Franklin Roosevelt passed Social Security, providing basic retirement security for every American.  Republicans fought it bitterly.   And 75 years later, they are still trying to undo it!

"In 1965, Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare, ensuring seniors' access to decent health care.  Republicans fought it bitterly.  And 45 years later, they are still trying to undo it!

"Well, here they go again!

"By the way, notice that the Republicans are no longer even pretending to offer a realistic, comprehensive alternative.  They used to talk about "repeal and replace."  Now their focus is mostly on "repeal."  

"As always, the Republican approach to health reform can be summed up in five words:  Pray you don't get sick!

"So make no mistake: The fight to provide access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans has only just begun.

"The same ideologues who came up with the Big Lies about "death panels" and "pulling the plug on grandma" are rolling out their latest campaign of misinformation.

"The good news is that, this time around, the dynamics of the debate have shifted.  

"Just as I long predicted, as people learn more about the great things in the Affordable Care Act - benefits and protections that are now guaranteed by law - support for health care reform is growing steadily.    

"A year ago, we were bogged down in the messy, frustrating politics of passing the bill.  This time around, the law is the law, and what's at stake is crystal clear:

"Are we going to put the health insurance companies back in the driver's seat - once again free to discriminate based on preexisting conditions, free to cancel your policy when you get sick, free to cut off payments?

"Are we going to revoke access to health insurance for more than 30 million Americans?

"Are we going to add hundreds of billions of dollars - and, eventually, trillions of dollars - to the deficit by wiping out all of the savings in the Affordable Care Act?

"Are we going to impose higher taxes on up to four million small businesses that are eligible for health care tax credits thanks to the new law?

"Mr. President, I also want to rebut the extreme, ideological attacks on the "individual mandate" in the new law.  Republicans claim that this is somehow an "assault on freedom."  Well, it is certainly an assault on the freedom to go without insurance, show up at the emergency room, and stick other Americans with your health care bills!

"The individual mandate is just common sense - that's why so many Republicans supported it in the past.  

"Senator John Chafee's reform bill in the early 1990s included an individual mandate; it was supported by Republican Senators Grassley, Hatch, and Lugar.  

"More recently, the original Wyden-Bennett bill, including an individual mandate, was supported by Senators Alexander, Crapo, Corker, Graham, and Grassley.  

"And, as we all know, the individual mandate was a critical piece of Republican Governor Mitt Romney's health reform in Massachusetts.   

"As I said, it's just common sense.  By eliminating free riders and putting everyone in the risk pool, we keep rates down for everyone.  And it's the only way that people with preexisting conditions are not left out in the cold.

"When we join together, we have more freedom.

"When everyone is covered and no one is left out, we enhance liberty.  

"Health reform is all about freedom - freedom from the fear that if you get sick, you won't be able to afford a doctor . . . freedom from the fear that a major illness will lead to financial ruin.  These are the practical freedoms that really matter to Americans.

"Mr. President, I can't tell you how many people have come up to me to thank me and other sponsors for passing the Affordable Care Act.  They tell me how it has personally affected their families in profoundly positive ways.  

"Let me tell you about Sarah Posekany of Cedar Falls, Iowa.  She was diagnosed with Crohn's disease when she was 15 years old.  During her first year of college, she ran into complications from Crohn's, which forced her to drop her classes in order to heal after multiple surgeries. Because she was no longer a full-time student, her parents' private health insurance company terminated her coverage. Four years later, she found herself $180,000 in debt, and was forced to file for bankruptcy. Sarah was able to complete one semester at Hawkeye Community College, but could not afford to continue. Because of her earlier bankruptcy, every bank she has applied to for student loans turned her down. With the new health law, people like Sarah are able to stay on their parents' health insurance plan until they are 26.

"And consider the case of Eleanor Pierce, also of Cedar Falls, Iowa.  When her job with a local company was eliminated, she lost her health insurance.  She had the option of purchasing COBRA insurance, but it was completely unaffordable. So she searched for coverage on the private, individual market, but was almost universally denied access because of her pre-existing condition of high blood pressure. The only plans that would cover her came with premiums she could never hope to afford without an income.

"So Eleanor - at age 62, suffering from high blood pressure - had no choice but to go without insurance, and hope for the best.  But, Mr. President, "hope for the best" is no substitute for regular medical care.  One year later, Eleanor suffered a massive heart attack.  And, when all was said and done, she had racked up $60,000 in medical debt.

"Mr. President, we need to get beyond ideological obsessions and listen to these ordinary Americans - victims of the old, broken health care system.  Americans have a clear message:  The new law has important new benefits and protections.  Don't take these protections away!

"Nearly half of non-elderly Americans have some type of preexisting condition, like high blood pressure, arthritis or heart disease.  The new law outlaws the denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions.  The McConnell amendment sweeps that away.

"The largest health insurer in California used technicalities to cancel the policies of women who got breast cancer.  The new law outlaws the practice of canceling policies when people get sick. The McConnell amendment fully restores the right of health insurers to return to that despicable practice.

"The new law prohibits insurers from imposing lifetime limits on benefits.  The McConnell amendment takes that away.

"The law allows parents to keep adult children on their policies until age 26.  The McConnell amendment takes that away.

"Mr. President, I want to briefly mention the destructive impacts the McConnell amendment would have on my State of Iowa:

  • It would raise taxes on more than 260,000 Iowans by taking away tax credits to help them purchase health care coverage.
  • More than 8,300 young adults in Iowa would lose their insurance coverage through their parents' health plans.
  • Tens of thousands of Iowa seniors would face significantly higher prescription drug prices, and, once again, would have to pay a co-pay for preventive services such as colonoscopies and mammograms.
  • And, of course, the 1.9 million Iowans with private coverage would, once again, be vulnerable to the whole range of abuses and discriminatory practices by health insurance.

"In addition, Mr. President, I want to mention that the new health reform law dramatically remedies the discrimination against Iowa and some other states in terms of Medicare reimbursement.  Under a complicated Medicare formula, doctors in Iowa and a number of states were paid less for their services than their colleagues elsewhere. Under the formula, for example, Iowa physicians are reimbursed less than doctors in Louisiana.

"As part of the new health reform bill, I joined with Reps. Bruce Braley, Leonard Boswell and Dave Loebsack to negotiate a compromise that provides an immediate $800 million to address geographic disparities for both doctors and hospitals, as well as written guarantees from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for further action to reform Medicare reimbursement rates.  This great achievement is wiped out if the McConnell amendment passes.

"In addition, thanks to the new law, mid-sized hospitals in Iowa - the so-called "tweeners" - will see a greater Medicare reimbursement.  The two-year fix will cover Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012 and will aid low-volume hospitals, some of which have struggled to keep their doors open.  The fix was included in the new health reform law - the Affordable Care Act.

"At the heart of the reform mission was an effort to decrease the number of uninsured and increase access to affordable care.  The law does just that and will ensure every Iowan access to quality healthcare, which these community hospitals.  This, too, goes away if the McConnell amendment prevails.

"Finally, Mr. President, I want to mention the many millions of Americans who will be denied health coverage if the McConnell amendment passes.  The Republicans, apparently, reckon that middle class Americans who already have health insurance don't care about those who are not so fortunate.  I couldn't disagree more strongly!  

"Americans do care about the uninsured.  And they are well aware of the devastating human cost of repeal.  Nearly 45,000 Americans die each year, in part, because they don't have health insurance.

"With this landmark law, we are ensuring - at long last - that every member of our American family has access to quality, affordable health care as a right, not a privilege!

"So mark my words:  The American people are not going to allow the Republicans to take away this great humanitarian achievement.

"Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to oppose the McConnell amendment.  It blows a huge hole in the budget deficit.  It destroys hundreds of thousands of jobs.  It repeals the Patient's Bill of Rights - allowing health insurers to return to the same old abusive and discriminatory practices.  It revokes health insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans.

"Instead, let us listen to the American people.  

"Let us move forward to build a reformed health care system that works not only for the healthy and the wealthy, but for all Americans."
Maximum Annual Award Maintained at $5,500

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today applauded the Department of Education's release of the new Pell Grant schedules as an important step towards improving access to college.  The schedules determine the Federal Pell Grant awards for the 2011-2012 Academic Year - July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012 - for low-income college students.  The maximum Pell Grant award for this year will be $5,550.  As Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Harkin led the effort to fully fund the Pell Grant program in the Continuing Resolution that passed the Senate and was signed into law in December.  Additionally, as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Harkin worked to eliminate billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies to banks and redirected that money to increase Pell Grants as part of the reconciliation package that was used to provide technical fixes to the health reform bill last March.

"In our efforts to attract and keep good jobs in America - and to stay competitive in the global economy - we must increase the number of students who attend college," said Harkin.  "Currently, there are millions of bright, young people who want to attend school but simply can't because of finances.  That is where the Pell Grant program provides much needed assistance and makes college more affordable for low-income students.  This is a small federal investment that repays itself many times over with a better paid tax base and a more educated work force.

"I am pleased that today the Department of Education has released its schedules so that schools and students can plan accordingly.  This is truly an important step in increasing access to college for all Americans.  Moving forward it is critical that we do all that we can in Congress continue to fund this program that is helping our economy and our future generations."

The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to over nine million low-income undergraduate and certain postbaccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education.  Students may use their grants at any one of approximately 5,400 participating postsecondary institutions.  Grant amounts are dependent on: the student's expected family contribution; the cost of attendance (as determined by the institution); the student's enrollment status (full-time or part-time); and whether the student attends for a full academic year or less.  To see the full Pell Grant schedule released today click here.
Funding comes in addition to the more than $84 million in funding announced in August

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced today that the State of Iowa will receive an additional  $8,040,652 in 2008 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) disaster dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The funding can be used to assist Iowans still struggling to rebuild their homes and businesses, as well as for general economic recovery purposes in the wake of 2008's natural disasters. Today's funding comes in addition to the $84,126,989 that was announced in August, bringing the total CDBG dollars for Iowa to $92,167,641.  Nationwide a total of $311 million was allocated - close to 30 percent of which went to Iowa - based on mitigation efforts using CDBG disaster resources in various 2008 disaster impacted states.  As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Harkin led the fight to have these funds appropriated in the months after the 2008 floods and tornados and he successfully worked to avoid having the whole $311 million pot of funds rescinded in mid 2010.  

"In the time since the floods of 2008, Iowans have shown their perseverance and have made great strides to rebuild our state. There is, however, still more to do," said Harkin.  "I am pleased that what seems like a technical recalculation at the federal level means real, tangible funding for Iowa's rebuilding efforts. With this kind of federal support and the 'can do' attitude of our state, we will rebuild an even brighter future for Iowa."

This additional funding became available because of a recalculation of the amount of CDBG resources allocated to mitigation, resulting in Iowa's proportion of the total mitigation effort increasing.  Of the $6.1 billion in CDBG disaster funding appropriated in September 2008 for 2008 disasters, $311 million was put aside by HUD for this mitigation allocation.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced today that he will hold a field hearing in Iowa to discuss the importance of providing adequate and responsible funding for critical education, health, labor and other initiatives. The panel will specifically discuss the ways in which federal funding has made a positive impact in Iowa by helping give Iowans the education and skills they need to find jobs.  Harkin is chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies, which is responsible for funding these important programs.  The hearing titled "Preserving America's Economic Security" will be held Saturday, February 5, 2011, at 12:30pm at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, University of Northern Iowa, 8201 Dakota Street, Cedar Falls.

Witnesses will include :  

The Honorable William Dotzler, State Senator (D-Senate District 11)

Dr. Benjamin J. Allen, President, University of Northern Iowa

Mr. Gerald Nelson, Field Office Manager, Social Security Administration, Waterloo, Iowa

Ms. Kim Young-Kent, Executive Director, Tri-County Head Start, Waterloo, Iowa

Dr. Jerry Durham, Chancellor and Professor of Nursing, Allen College of Nursing

The Reverend Mark A. Anderson, Assistant to the Bishop, Northeastern Iowa Synod, Waverly, Iowa

Mr. Jonathan Keniston, Student, Hawkeye Community College

WASHINGTON, D.C. - January 27, 2011 - At this morning's hearing, Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and other members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) heard testimony from Americans who are already experiencing benefits of the Affordable Care Act.  One witness, a 21 year old named Emily Schlichting who suffers from a chronic auto-immune disease, told the Committee that her life has drastically changed for the better thanks to the new health reform law.        

"I believe that allowing young people to stay on their parent's insurance gives us new freedom to work toward our goals without going uncovered. But even more important than that is the fact that the Patient's Bill of Rights makes it so that I can't be denied insurance simply because I have a disease I can't control," Schlichting said in her testimony.    

"I'm one example of millions and millions of young Americans who have been helped by this bill, whether through the Dependent Care clause or the Patient's Bill of Rights or the combination of the two, like me...Health care is something that is easy not to care about when you're young and you're healthy...Young people are the future of this country and we are the most affected by reform? we're the generation that is the most uninsured.  We need the Affordable Care Act because it is literally an investment in the future of this country."

Ms. Schlichting's testimony was featured today in the Omaha World-Herald and her full remarks, along with the testimony of the rest of the witnesses and an archived webcast of the hearing, can be found at http://help.senate.gov

This is the first in a series of hearings that Chairman Harkin will convene to examine the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and how it is benefitting Americans.  In his opening remarks, Harkin said:

"We meet today for the first in a series of hearings this Committee will hold on the Affordable Care Act - hearings that will focus not on the politics of health care reform, nor on the rhetoric that surrounds it, but rather on the tangible, positive impact that reform is having on Americans' lives.  I think we can all agree that what this debate needs is more light and less heat."

Harkin's full opening statement as prepared for delivery is below:

Statement by Senator Tom Harkin
Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
Hearing on The Affordable Care Act:  The Impact of Health Insurance Reform on Health Care Consumers
January 27, 2011

"Good morning everyone.  We meet today for the first in a series of hearings this Committee will hold on the Affordable Care Act - hearings that will focus not on the politics of health care reform, nor on the rhetoric that surrounds it, but rather on the tangible, positive impact that reform is having on Americans' lives.  I think we can all agree that what this debate needs is more light and less heat.

"To that end, today's hearing will focus on the benefits of health reform that Americans are experiencing right now - specifically the bundle of significant consumer protections that went into effect in late September of last year, known as the Patient's Bill of Rights.

"These protections are a historic, long-awaited improvement in the quality and scope of health coverage for all Americans.  Every American who pays a health insurance premium is now protected against some of the most egregious and abusive practices of the insurance industry.  Put another way, thanks to health reform, Americans now have protections that every Senator on this dais has had for years.

"Before the Affordable Care Act, nearly 102 million Americans were in health insurance policies with lifetime limits, and it was estimated that as many as 20,000 people annually could be denied coverage for care due to those limits.  Unsurprisingly, people in danger of hitting a lifetime limit are seriously ill, and their benefits run out just when they need them most.  The Affordable Care Act permanently eliminates all lifetime limits, and phases out annual limits by 2014, providing economic and health security for those who need coverage most.  One of those folks, Lisa Grasshoff, is here today and will talk a bit later about how the Act's ban on lifetime limits has helped her care for her son and strengthened her family's financial future.

"As I'm sure the Secretary will discuss in her testimony, last week the Department of Health and Human Services released an important report analyzing preexisting health conditions.  The report's findings are striking - up to 129 million non-elderly Americans have a preexisting condition, and millions more are likely to develop such a condition over the next eight years.  Before the Affordable Care Act, these Americans faced denial of coverage, restriction of health benefits, or higher premiums as a result of their preexisting condition.  Their ability to take a new job, start their own business, or make other important life changes was limited - they were, in effect, locked in to their original insurance coverage.  

"Because of health reform, insurance companies are now prohibited from restricting or denying coverage to children under 19 because of a preexisting condition.  And in 2014, this protection will be extended to all Americans.  Between now and 2014, the law establishes an insurance plan in every state tailored specifically to adults with preexisting conditions who are currently "uninsurable," offering coverage at standard market rates.  Thousands of people have enrolled and received coverage of live-saving services like chemotherapy.

"Another element of the Patient's Bill of Rights is a requirement for every insurance plan to cover evidence-based preventive services that will head off many illnesses, addressing them in the nurses' office rather than the emergency room.  The cost of preventable disease consumes 75% of health care spending annually, dollars that could be used to build roads, improve schools and create jobs.  The prevention investments in the law are down payments on the long-term project of transforming our current sick care system into a genuine health care system?and first-dollar coverage of preventive services like mammograms and immunizations are a vital part of that.

"Before the Affordable Care Act, millions of young adults went without health insurance because their jobs didn't offer it, or because they were ineligible for coverage on their parents' policy.  These young people -- starting a new job or a new business, folks who don't have a lot of money - had to largely fend for themselves in a chaotic, unregulated market for individual coverage that charges high premiums for only modest benefits.  Now, health reform allows these young people - more than 2 million of them -- to stay on their parents' policy until age 26.  This reform relieves young people of the burden of high health insurance costs - and for those who can't afford coverage, the fear of financial ruin.  This reform is particularly important for young people with chronic illnesses, as we will learn from one of our witnesses today, Emily Schlichting, a University of Nebraska student.

"Finally, the Affordable Care Act puts an end to one of the most outrageous insurance company abuses - cancelling insurance coverage right when someone gets sick, based on a technical paperwork error.  These stories turn my stomach:

·a California insurer using computer programs and a dedicated department to cancel policies of pregnant women and the chronically ill, only because they submitted expensive claims;

·another insurance company which started a fraud investigation into anyone who submitted a claim reaching a certain cost level, looking for any reason to cancel the policy;

·insurance companies paying bonuses to employees based on how many policies they cancelled (and therefore how much money they saved). 

"Health reform puts an end to that sorry state of affairs.

"Today, we will hear from public officials at both the state and federal levels who are charged with implementing and overseeing the Affordable Care Act, as well as private citizens who will talk about how the Act's consumer protections have affected them.  

"On our first panel, we welcome Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to her first hearing of this new Congress.  In addition to expertly implementing the private insurance market reforms we'll focus on today, I want to applaud the Secretary for her relentless and effective work in eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.  This week, the Department reported that it had recovered more than $4 billion from perpetrators of fraud last year - the highest annual recovery ever.  And the Department released new rules, authorized by the Affordable Care Act, giving it even more effective tools to detect and combat fraud.  

"Our second panel is comprised of Rhode Island Insurance Commissioner Chris Koller, and three non-government witnesses, Lisa Grasshoff, Joe Olivo, and Emily Schlichting.  

"As always, I am very pleased to be joined by our committee's Ranking Member, Senator Mike Enzi."

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? January 26, 2011 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today reintroduced major legislation to create a healthier future for America by giving our citizens access to better preventive care and consumer information to encourage healthier lifestyles.  The Healthier Lifestyles and Prevention America Act, also known as the HeLP America Act, provides all sectors of our society - child care centers, schools, workplaces, health care providers and communities - with the incentives and tools they need to reach the goal of making America a healthier place.

"Promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing chronic disease will not happen overnight.  While the prevention and wellness measures included in the new health reform law were an important step forward, much more needs to be done," said Harkin.

"We need to integrate health and wellness into all elements of American communities - from our schools and workplaces to our grocery store aisles and restaurants.  By providing people the information and resources they need to live longer, healthier lives, the HeLP America Act will empower people to take care of their health, boosting overall quality of life and lowering our spiraling health care costs."

Among other benefits, the HeLP America Act will:

·    Provide fresh fruits and vegetables to all low income elementary schools by expanding the Harkin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
·    Create a healthier workforce by providing tax credits to businesses that offer comprehensive workplace wellness programs to their employees and allowing employers to deduct the cost of employees' athletic facility memberships
·    Reduce Americans' sodium consumption by developing two-year targets for sodium reduction in packaged and restaurant foods
·    Help Americans make informed choices about their food by establishing uniform FDA guidelines for the use of "healthy" symbols on the front of food packages
·   Ensure Individuals with Disabilities have access to community sports by creating competitive grants for the implementation of community-based sports and athletic programs for people with disabilities, including youth with disabilities.  

Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are among the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, and the economic impact is staggering. More than seventy-five percent of the $2.5 trillion the United States spends on health care annually is due to chronic disease. Yet less than five percent of annual health care spending in the United States goes toward chronic disease prevention.

Harkin has promoted preventive healthcare initiatives throughout his career, including increased access to breast cancer screenings, the school fruit and vegetable pilot program, the Menu Education and Labeling Act (MEAL), and tobacco control.  Most recently, as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Harkin championed the prevention and wellness measures that are included in the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law last March.  The Prevention and Public Health title of health reform law creates incentives to prevent chronic disease and rein in costs across the full health care spectrum.  A full summary of the provisions is available here:  http://harkin.senate.gov/documents/pdf/4c2b8b9dc4e74.pdf

A full summary of the HeLP America Act is below:

Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention (HeLP) America Act of 2011

Healthier Kids & Schools
·    Nutrition and physical activity in child care quality improvement: Supports State efforts to provide resources to child care providers to help them meet high-quality physical activity and healthy eating standards.
·    Access to local foods and school gardens at preschools and child care centers: Enables child care providers to participate in the USDA's farm-to-school initiatives.
·   Fruit and vegetable program:  Expands the Harkin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to all low income elementary schools nationwide.
·    Equal physical activity opportunities for students with disabilities: Directs the Department of Education to provide oversight, guidance, and technical assistance to ensure that schools provide equal opportunities for students with disabilities for PE and extracurricular athletics.

Healthier Communities
·   Joint use agreements: Directs the HHS, in coordination with Department of Education, to develop and disseminate guidelines and model joint use agreements to facilitate community access to spaces for physical activity.
·    Community Sports for Individuals with Disabilities: Competitive grants to public entities and nonprofit private entities to implement community-based sports and athletic programs for people with disabilities, including youth with disabilities.  
·    Community gardens: Grants from the USDA to establish, expand, or maintain community gardens.
·    Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Requires HHS to issue physical activity guidelines for preschool children and to update the guidelines for all ages every 5 years.
·    Tobacco Taxes Parity: Increases the excise tax on small cigarettes; equalizes excise taxes for pipe tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco; and clarifies the definition of small cigars.
·   Health in all policies: Requires HHS to conduct a health impact assessment of major non-health legislative proposals and to detail staff to other departments to assist them with consideration of health impacts of their activities.

A Healthier Workforce
·    Healthy Workforce:  Provides tax credits to businesses that offer comprehensive workplace wellness programs to their employees to improve health and wellbeing.
·    Workforce Health Improvement:  Allows employers to deduct the cost of athletic facility memberships for their employees and exempts this benefit as taxable income for employees.
·    Workplace Breastfeeding Taskforce: Establishes a federal taskforce for the promotion of breastfeeding among working mothers.
·    Healthy Federal Workplaces: Requires menu labeling in federal food facilities, the development of nutritional guidelines for food procurement and vending machines on federal property, the development of guidelines for stair placement and signage, and bicycle parking in federal properties.

Responsible Marketing and Consumer Awareness
·    Reducing Sodium Consumption: Directs the FDA to develop two year targets for sodium reduction in packaged and restaurant foods.
·   Improved food labeling: Removes nutrition labeling exemption for foods sold exclusively to restaurants.
·    Healthy Symbols: Instructs the FDA to develop uniform guidelines for the use of nutrient labeling symbols or systems on the front of food packages.
·    Protect Kids from Unfair Junk Food Advertising: Restores the rulemaking authority of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue restrictions on unfair advertising with respect to children, and gives the FTC Administrative Procedure Act rulemaking authority.
·    Health Literacy:  Strengthens federal initiatives to improve the health literacy of consumers by making health information more understandable and health care systems easier to navigate through continued research and dissemination of effective interventions.
·    Tobacco Marketing:  Eliminates tax deductibility of tobacco advertising, and funds counter-advertising.
·    Incentives to reduce youth tobacco use: Requires HHS to carry out an annual youth tobacco use survey and creates a penalty for tobacco manufacturers if youth use of their tobacco products does not decrease.

Expanded Coverage of Preventive Services
·    Preventive Services in Medicaid:  Requires coverage of preventive services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the CDC without cost-sharing for Medicaid beneficiaries.
·    Preventive Services for Federal Employees:  Requires coverage of preventive services recommended by the USPSTF, CDC, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for children, and workplace wellness program in the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) Program.
·   Health Professional Education on Health Eating:  Establishes a program administered by CDC and HRSA to train health professionals to better identify patients at-risk of and treat patients who are overweight, obese, or have an eating disorder.

Research and Surveillance
·    Grants for body mass index analysis: Provides grants to States to include BMI data in existing state-wide immunization databases.
·    National Assessment of Mental Health:  Requires the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to build on existing or create new monitoring systems that assess mental and behavioral health status and risks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - January 25, 2011 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today led a group of senators in introducing legislation aimed at expanding markets for biofuels.  The bill will increase the number of flex-fuel vehicles on the road, increase the number of blender pumps dispensing biofuels and authorize loan guarantees for the construction of renewable fuel pipelines.  As the former Chairman and now senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Harkin has been a long-time leader in promoting the production and use of biofuels as an important part of the nation's energy strategy.  

"Because we import 60 percent of the petroleum we consume, our country is vulnerable to disruptions in the supply of petroleum and our economy faces a constant threat from volatile oil prices. With more than two-thirds of our petroleum supply consumed by our transportation sector, there is a tremendous opportunity to expand the production and use of biofuels, which is good for our American security and for our economy," said Harkin. "Biofuels displace close to 10 percent of our gasoline supplies, and they have the potential to make significantly larger contributions.  The bill I am introducing today is an important step in our overall energy policy and a job generator for Iowa and our nation as a whole."

Co-sponsors of the bill are: Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Al Franken (D-MN).

A copy of the bill can be found here. A summary of the bill follows:

Flex-fuel Vehicles

Mandates that increasing fractions of vehicles manufactured for sale in the U.S. be flex-fuel capable.  Those fractions are
50% in 2014 and 2015
90% in 2016 and beyond
The mandate doesn't include vehicles that operate only on electricity

Blender Pumps

Defines "major fuel distributor" as a person that owns or directly markets the output of a refinery, but not including any person that directly markets through less than 50 retail fueling stations.

Requires major fuel distributors to install at least one blender pump at an increasing number of the refueling stations which they own or through which they market, according to the following schedule:
10% by 2014
20% by 2016
35% by 2018
50% by 2020 and thereafter
Allows trading of credits for excess blender pump installations to major fuel distributors with less than the required number.

Authorizes grants for installation of retail ethanol blend fueling infrastructure including blender pumps, tanks, and associated equipment.  Grants may be up to 50% of project costs.  These are not available to major fuel distributors.  Authorizes these amounts for appropriations:
$50,000,000 in 2012
$100,000,000 in 2013
$200,000,000 in 2014
$300,000,000 in 2015
$350,000,000 in 2016

Renewable Fuel Pipelines

Authorizes loan guarantees under the DOE Loan Guarantee Program for guarantees for loans covering 80% of project costs for renewable fuel pipelines.