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With President’s Signature, Comprehensive Health Reform And Harkin-Led Prevention Investments Become Law

National Menu Labeling Effort Will Also Take Effect Soon

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement after President Obama signed into law The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Senate-passed comprehensive health reform measure approved by the House earlier this week.  Harkin, as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was on hand at the White House to witness the bill signing.

“It’s been a long debate and a hard-fought battle, but today, the hundred year struggle to provide affordable, quality health care coverage is over.  In signing this bill into law, President Obama today rewrote history, and in doing so, made access to health care available to millions of Americans. I’ve been on hand for a number of White House bill signings, but witnessing this particular event has been one of the most poignant of my career,” said Harkin.

 “I am most encouraged that with this reform, we will begin to recreate America as a genuine wellness society – a society focused on healthful lifestyles and preventing the chronic diseases that take such a toll on our bodies and our budgets.  And make no mistake, this bill doesn’t just tinker around the edges; it changes the paradigm.”

The Prevention and Public Health title of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act creates incentives to prevent chronic disease and rein in costs across the full health care spectrum.  At the federal level, creating a new inter-agency council to develop a national health strategy, creating a dedicated funding stream to support these efforts; at the clinical level with doctor training and coverage of preventive services and the elimination of co-pays and deductibles for these services; and at the grassroots level with grants for community initiatives that will support more walkable communities, healthier schools and increased access to nutritious foods in safe environments.

The legislation also includes a bipartisan compromise brokered by Harkin and others to provide mandatory disclosure of calories on menus and menu boards to help reduce rising obesity rates by enabling Americans to make healthier food choices.  The compromise combines key elements of the Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL) Act, sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and the Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act, sponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). 

“A critical component of the just passed federal menu labeling is that the nutrition information is right on the menu or menu board next to the name of the menu item, rather than in a pamphlet or in tiny print on a poster, so that consumers can see it when they are making ordering decisions,” concluded Harkin.  “It’s a common-sense approach that’s also a step toward good public health.”

Prevention and wellness provisions of the The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will:

  • Provide $15 billion in mandatory spending to support prevention and wellness activities.
  • Eliminate cost sharing on recommended preventive services delivered by Medicare and all insurance plans available in the Health Insurance Exchange.
  • Support two independent, advisory task forces — the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the Task Force on Community Preventive Services (TFCPS) — to strengthen and coordinate these bodies’ efforts to conduct rigorous, systematic reviews of existing science and recommend the adoption of proven and effective services.
  • Support investments in the science of prevention to further expand the base of information available for evaluation by the task forces.
  • Provide coverage under Medicare, with no co-payment or deductible, for an annual wellness visit that includes a comprehensive health risk assessment and a 5-10 year personalized prevention plan.
  • Deliver clinical preventive services by  covering 100% of the cost of USPSTF-recommended preventive services for Medicare beneficiaries, providing enhanced federal Medicaid matching funds to states who offer USPSTF-recommended services, requiring coverage of tobacco cessation services for pregnant women in Medicaid and by making clinical preventive services a required benefit of insurance available in the Health Insurance Exchange.
  • Deliver community preventive services by investing in state, territorial and local public health infrastructure and by providing grants to implement recommended services.

Require chain restaurants to put calorie counts directly on their menus and to make other nutritional information available so that consumers can make informed choices about what they eat.