Why it matters: The health care sector represents 18 percent of our economy. More importantly, it impacts the bottom line of every American. The average American spends over $10,000 annually on health care expenses and experts expect that to continue to rise.
Where I stand: Like most Americans, I believe our health care system needs substantive reform to provide relief to families from rising health care costs and to ensure access to quality and affordable care.
However, I understand any reforms to our health care system require thorough and thoughtful debate. This is especially true for significant reforms. While that discussion remains ongoing, the Senate has worked hard to advance critical investments in our health care workforce, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and cutting-edge medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Today, patients have more freedom when purchasing prescription drugs through the elimination of “gag clauses” that prevent pharmacists from disclosing when there’s a cheaper alternative. These are just a few efforts that I am proud to support which I know will improve patient access, lower costs and ensure a healthy America.
Much work remains to be completed. I believe we must preserve and protect the role of patients, providers and physicians as the principle health care decision-makers, not the federal government. Our focus must be on driving down the cost of care, increasing options and ensuring that the needs of patients are put first, while keeping protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
As a former health care provider, I am committed to sharing my experience with colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we work to reform our health care system so it makes sense for all Americans. It is time for us to come together and find commonsense solutions to our challenges.
What I've Done: As an optometrist, I understand that ensuring our health care system is able to provide quality care that is truly affordable, accessible and efficient for patients and providers is a priority for most Americans. That's why I've championed reforms that lower costs, increase competition, and advocated for legislation to improve access to vital telehealth services.
Senator Boozman's Health Care Accomplishments
Telehealth has been instrumental in allowing patients to continue receiving the care they need during the coronavirus pandemic without having to visit a health professional in person. The public health emergency has amplified the need to expand telehealth opportunities. Boozman has called on the nation’s top health care agencies to make permanent the temporary telehealth mental health services Congress approved in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law in March 2020. A provision based on this call to action was included in the coronavirus relief legislation signed into law in December 2020.
This law also included a Boozman-supported provision of $250 million for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) telehealth program created in the CARES Act to help health providers purchase telemedicine equipment and launch telehealth and remote patient monitoring services.
Physician Medicare Payments
Boozman secured protections to seniors’ health care access with the prevention of Medicare physician payments cuts. He authored legislation to block the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) planned physician payment cuts scheduled to begin January 1, 2021. A provision based on his bipartisan legislation was included in the coronavirus relief legislation signed into law by President Trump in December 2020.
Opioid Abuse and Addiction Prevention
Boozman has championed legislation to combat the opioid epidemic. He supported the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act signed into law by President Obama in 2016. The law expands prevention efforts, increases access to treatment and promotes recovery. Boozman continued his work to fight prescription drug abuse when he voted for the21st Century Cures Act which became law in 2016 as well and included a provision that authorizes the opioid grant program. Boozman has helped secure millions of dollars for Arkansas through this program. Additionally, Boozman has successfully advocated for investments to assist Arkansas in combatting this epidemic through various grant programs.
He has been and remains a strong supporter and backer of Arkansas Take Back Day, an initiative to collect unneeded, old and unused prescription drugs. These events have helped break the cycle of addiction and resulted in the collection of more than 206 tons of pills for safe disposal.
Investing in the Next Generation of Physicians
By introducing bipartisan legislation that would gradually lift the caps on Medicare-supported doctor training slots, Boozman is helping Arkansas prepare to meet the future health care needs of residents by addressing the predicted shortage of future primary care and specialty physicians. A provision based on the legislation he championed was included in the legislative package signed into law by President Trump in December 2020.
Research and Development for Treatment and Cures
Boozman serves as a member of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease. In Fiscal Year 2021, he helped deliver $3.1 billion for medical research to treat, cure and prevent Alzheimer’s. Boozman was a champion of the Building our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act that was signed into law in 2018 and creates a public health infrastructure to combat Alzheimer’s disease. In 2020, the Improving HOPE (Health, Outcomes, Planning, and Education) for Alzheimer’s Act was signed into law. The bill, cosponsored by Boozman,requires the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct outreach to make more health care providers aware of the resources available to deliver the care patients need. Boozman also serves as a member of the Senate ALS Caucus. Legislation he cosponsored, the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act, was signed into law in 2020. This important bill eliminates the five-month waiting period for disability insurance benefits for individuals with ALS.
Community Health Centers
Boozman has been a long-time supporter of Community Health Centers (CHC) and led efforts to increase their funding. In Arkansas, there are more than 130 CHC facilities that help nearly 200,000 people get the medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care services they need. These facilities play a critical role in providing access to quality and cost-effective health care. In Fiscal Year 2021, Boozman helped secure $1.68 billion for these health facilities. In 2012, the National Association of Community Health Centers recognized Boozman with its Distinguished Community Champion Award.