As a doctor, I took an oath to care for the well-being of my patients. As the Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County, I fought to deliver quality healthcare to thousands of residents. As your Congressman, I am working with my colleagues to prioritize patient care, lower health care costs, and protect Medicare for our seniors.
- Lowering Costs and Putting Patients First
- Fighting for First-Class Health Care for Veterans
- Protecting Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights
- Protecting and Strengthening Medicare
- Advancing Medical Research
- Addressing the Doctor Shortage
Health care costs too much. We keep paying more and more for health care and we keep getting less and less. We have to start lowering health costs by targeting waste and fraud, and by encouraging medical best practices such as preventive care so we can find and treat health care problems early.
The Affordable Care Act is not how I would have gone about addressing health care. While it does allow more people to access health care, I’ve always said it doesn’t do enough to address health care costs, and the problematic roll out of the law has made it even clearer that there are areas that need to be improved. We need to fix the parts of the law that aren’t working for the American people.
• The Small Business and Family Relief Act: I introduced this bill to make health care more affordable for working families, small businesses, and seniors.
By delaying a part of the Affordable Care Act that adds a new tax on health insurance for two years, my bipartisan bill would give health insurance markets time to stabilize while providing immediate relief to middle class Americans. This health insurance tax makes providing health benefits to employees more expensive and hinders job growth. It disproportionately impacts small businesses, and is expected to cost the typical family an additional $660 in 2014 and 2015 alone.
I visited with the owners of local Folsom business Brothers Boats and other members of the Sacramento County business community to discuss my bill, the Small Business and Family Relief Act.
At a time when our economy is barely recovering, we shouldn't force our businesses to choose between absorbing new costs or passing them on to their workers or customers. Our health care system must work in cooperation with the private sector, and improve on what we already have to make it better.
• Ensuring Common-Sense Flexibility in Health Care: As a doctor, I am committed to taking a common-sense, flexible, and bipartisan approach to improving health care so it works better for Sacramento County families. That’s why I’ve voted repeatedly to ensure flexibility for patients, doctors, and our economy when it comes to the Affordable Care Act.
For example, I've voted for legislation to delay the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate so we don’t harshly punish people after the rocky roll-out of the health care law. I also voted to delay the mandate requiring employers to provide health care, and voted for the Keep Your Plan Act so all Sacramento County families can have the individual choice to keep insurance plans that work for them.
• Staying Out of Seniors' Exam Rooms: I’m supporting the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act to repeal the so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB for short. This board, created as part of the Affordable Care Act, is made-up of unelected bureaucrats that can impose cuts on Medicare spending – potentially putting seniors’ access to care at risk and denying doctors a fair reimbursement for their services.
Earlier this year, I volunteered at the Sacramento Community Veterans Alliance health fair, which provides free health care for all veterans.
As a doctor who's cared for veterans in the VA system, I've seen first-hand how much they've sacrificed for our country. Our heroes deserve our unwavering support.
Like many of you, I've been deeply troubled and alarmed by reports that some veterans may have died while waiting to receive medical care at a VA hospital in Arizona. We must get to the bottom of this crisis and make sure our heroes get the first-class medical care they deserve.
Here’s how I’m working to make sure that our heroes get the first-class medical care they deserve:
• Reforming VA Health Care
Earlier this summer, I voted for the bipartisan Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which the President signed into law. This bill is a direct response to the health care crisis at the VA, and is a compromise between both Republicans and Democrats. I’m glad that people in both parties came together to do what’s right for our veterans.
This bill takes a number of steps to ensure veterans can receive the health care they need, including allowing vets to receive health care at other hospitals if they can’t get an appointment at a VA facility within 30 days. It also takes steps to deny undeserved bonuses at the VA, and makes it easier to dismiss senior VA managers who aren’t doing their jobs. In addition, the bill provides funding so the VA can hire more doctors on an expedited basis, and authorizes leases for new VA health facilities.
While this bipartisan bill is a much needed step in the right direction, we can’t let up. We must continue to monitor the situation at the VA, vigilantly guard against future abuses, and ensure the VA has the doctors and resources it needs to care for our heroes. Our veterans have served us, now we must do our jobs and serve them.
It's obvious there are very serious systemic problems at the VA. The VA needs new leadership, which is why I called on VA Secretary Shinseki to step down, and I’m glad that he stood aside so we concentrate on addressing these problems without distraction. I also pushed for a comprehensive VA audit to thoroughly check hospital records, and I’m leading a bipartisan effort to make sure the VA has enough doctors and staff to care for veterans. I’ve also consistently supported funding for veterans’ health care and services.
• Doctors Helping Heroes Act
I introduced the bipartisan Doctors Helping Heroes Act to address a serious shortage of doctors at VA hospitals across the country, which is one of the reasons why some veterans have waited far too long for care. By allowing more American trained, international doctors to practice in VA hospitals, this legislation will help ensure that our heroes get the medical care they desperately need. You can read more about my legislation in the Sacramento Bee.
I had the opportunity to tour the Mather VA hospital with their Medical Director, David Stockwell, to get a first-hand update on the health care needs of Sacramento County’s veterans and learn more about the challenges facing our local VA hospital. I was pleased to hear that my bipartisan bill – the Doctors Helping Heroes Act – would help improve care for our vets locally.
• 21st Century Health Care for Heroes Act
I was honored to co-author the 21st Century Health Care for Heroes Act with my Republican colleague from New York, Chris Gibson. I’m proud to report that this bill is now law of the land.
Part of a bipartisan effort to construct a streamlined and easily accessible electronic health record system for service members and veterans, this common-sense initiative will have the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs merge their electronic health records.
This will save money, makes the transition to civilian life easier for vets, and helps address the VA backlog. In essence, it will help make government work for our veterans.
Click here to go back to the top.
Protecting Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights
With my wife, Dr. Janine Bera. We’re both physicians and have volunteered at the Imani clinic for the past twenty years to serve people in need.
I strongly support a woman’s constitutionally protected right to choose and making contraception, family planning, and health care more available to women. As a doctor, I took an oath to provide my patients with the best options available to them and to explain the risks and benefits of these choices.
Women should be free to make decisions that work best for them and respects their own faith, family, and personal circumstances. In Congress, I am committed to fighting any attacks on women’s rights and their reproductive health choices.
Please click here to visit my Women’s Equality page to learn more about what I’m doing to stand up for women’s rights.
• Not My Boss’s Business: Fighting the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Ruling
As a doctor, I strongly believe that health decisions should be between a patient and her doctor – not her boss, and not Washington politicians.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that some corporations can deny female employees’ access to some types of birth control. As a doctor, I’m extremely disappointed by this ruling. This decision is a serious step backward for women’s health care – it sets a dangerous precedent where bosses are in control of their employees’ personal health decisions, and could even have wider implications for denying other types of health care.
That’s why I’m an original cosponsor of the Not My Boss Business Act – a bill that would help reverse the harmful effects of this ruling.
You can learn more about my work on this issue on my Women’s Equality page.
• The Women’s Preventive Health Campaign Awareness Act: One of the first bills I introduced as your Congressman was the Women’s Preventive Health Campaign Awareness Act. My bill would launch a national public outreach campaign to raise awareness on the importance of yearly women’s doctor exams – which will help save lives and lower health care costs by finding and treating health problems early. Providing women with access to birth control and family planning services is a crucial part of this.
• Fighting Attacks on a Woman’s Right to Choose: I voted against the so-called Pain-Capable Child Protection Act – a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, and only let women get an abortion in cases of rape and incest if they report the crime to the police.
I am particularly alarmed by how the bill’s author said how he thinks pregnancies from rape are “very low.” As a doctor, I know that this is untrue, but it’s also insulting. Rape is a horrible, awful crime, and 30,000 pregnancies a year result from rape.
I also voted against H.R. 7 – a radical assault on women’s health care that chips away at a woman’s right to choose. This bill would restrict how women with PRIVATE insurance can spend PRIVATE dollars in purchasing health insurance when it comes to plans that cover safe and legal abortion care, and penalize small businesses and families with increased taxes.
• Leading the fight against government interference in the exam room: Politicians shouldn’t be in the business of dictating what doctors should or should not say or how they should practice medicine. But a growing number of states are trying to dictate what doctors must say to their patients, and to mandate procedures like trans-vaginal ultrasounds. 14 state bills requiring this kind of interference were introduced in the first 3 weeks of 2014 alone - a rapid increase in attempts to limit women’s health care choices that would also force health care providers to choose between ethical obligations to patients or breaking misguided laws.
That’s why I am a strong supporter of the Women’s Health Protection Act to make sure that doctors can continue to provide women with the best medical advice available without government interference. It prohibits states from passing laws or regulations that limit access to abortion care, and provides a means to challenge existing laws in court. It also directs judges to consider whether regulations make abortion services more difficult to access.
Additionally, I recently convened health care leaders from around the country, including the CEOs of nine physician groups, to discuss how doctors can protect the patient-doctor relationship and keep government out of the exam room, and we’re continuing to work together on this important issue.
• Fighting for Family Planning Funding: In Congress, I’m fighting for strong funding for Title X health care programs. Title X helps ensure that health care providers like Planned Parenthood can provide women with access to contraception, family planning services, and breast and cervical cancer screenings.
Click here to go back to the top.
Protecting and Strengthening Medicare
As a doctor, I cared for thousands of patients who have paid into and rely on Medicare. I know first-hand that we can reduce runaway health care costs without making dramatic cuts to Medicare that will hurt our seniors. By lowering drug costs, ending wasteful tests, and encouraging preventive care, we can safeguard Medicare for future generations.
Please click here to learn more about what I’m doing to protect and strengthen Medicare.
Click here to go back to the top.
Advancing Medical Research
Millions of Americans suffer from debilitating and life-threatening diseases. Congress needs to support researchers as they pursue medical breakthroughs that can positively impact millions of patients.
That’s why I strongly support the National Institutes of Health – the premier federal agency in disease research. I’m working to prioritize investments in NIH medical research to help us unlock the mysteries of diseases, and also boost local researchers at the University of California, Davis.
I am also working closely with the Institute’s leadership to build bipartisan support for the agency to ensure they get all the help and support they need. And as a proud member of the Science Research Subcommittee in Congress, I pledge to work tirelessly to promote medical research and scientific advancement.
Click here to go back to the top.
Addressing the Doctor Shortage
The Association of American Medical Colleges projects there will be a shortage of 63,000 doctors by 2015 and more than 130,000 by 2025. As more and more Americans gain access to health care in the coming years, it will be crucial to address this doctor shortage so that everyone can get the doctor they need.
• Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act: I introduced this bipartisan bill to issue visas for U.S.-educated foreign physicians, if they agree to practice in underserved areas of the country that are in dire need of more doctors.
America’s strength has always been built on our ability to attract the best and the brightest people from around the world to innovate and help us here in the U.S. This bill is simply common-sense, which is why I worked to make sure it’s part a comprehensive immigration reform bill that was introduced in the House.
• Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act: It takes more than ten years to educate and train a qualified doctor, so ensuring that we are training enough doctors to provide health care many years for now is absolutely critical for dealing with our doctor’s shortage.
Unfortunately, the primary federal funding source for doctor training – Graduate Medical Education – still limits its medical residency slots at caps that were set at more than fifteen years ago. I’m supporting this bill to gradually increase the number of Graduate Medical Education slots that are available for medical residencies at teaching hospitals.
More on Health Care
I sent an email update on Thursday on my frist hundred days serving you in my second term in Congress. Join my email updates now so you don't miss any in the future!
The Senate last night overwhelmingly passed legislation to restore certainty to our seniors and to Medicare physicians, and to end the more than decade-long cycle of “doc fix” patches, by repealing and reforming the flawed Medicare payment system known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). The bill passed by a vote of 92 to 8.
Congressman Ami Bera, M.D., one of a handful of doctors in Congress who fought for this legislation, made the following statement:
CMS announced yesterday that Medicare Advantage rates for 2016 will increase by an average of 1.25 percent, a reversal from the 0.95 percent cut CMS proposed in February. Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. fought against the proposed cuts that would have increased costs for seniors and blocked their access to care. He offered the following comment:
WASHINGTON — The House overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes to the Medicare program on Thursday in the most significant bipartisan policy legislation to pass through that chamber since Republicans regained a majority in 2011.
The measure, which would establish a new formula for paying doctors, increase premiums for some Medicare beneficiaries and extend a popularhealth insurance program for children, has already been endorsed by President Obama and awaits a vote in the Senate.
Despite how it sometimes looks from outside the halls of the Capitol, there are members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, who are working together to make big, bold decisions for the future of the country. After all, that’s why people like us wanted to serve. We both ran for Congress because we wanted to work to put people before politics to solve this country’s problems, and we believed that medical professionals must be an integral part of the conversation regarding healthcare policy.
Following the introduction of bipartisan legislation to permanently fix the SGR formula for Medicare provider payments, Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. released the following statement:
“As a doctor who’s cared for many seniors who rely on Medicare, I know how much of a lifeline it is to our parents and grandparents. That’s why we need to fix the flawed formula for reimbursing Medicare health care providers that has threatened seniors’ access to health care for more than a decade.
I sent an email update on Thursday about how I've been working to deliver for local families, businesses, and seniors. Join my email updates now so you don't miss any in the future!