March 04,1999

Roth Opening Statement at Markup

WASHINGTON -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr., gave the following opening remarks at today's mark-up:

"We are here today for our first health care markup of the 106th Congress. The first bill we will take up today, S. 331, the Work Incentives Act of 1999, represents a strong bipartisan, bicameral effort to accomplish a very important goal -- removing barriers to work confronting millions of Americans with disabilities.

"Together with Senators Moynihan, Jeffords, and Kennedy, I introduced the Work Incentives Act earlier this year to help disabled Americans who want to want to work do so without loss of their health insurance lifeline.

"The bill is familiar to members of the Committee. We held a hearing on S. 331 one month ago. At that hearing, Senator Bob Dole joined us to endorse the proposal, which is also supported by over 70 national disability, provider, and insurance groups, such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the American Nurses Association, and the American Council of Life Insurance.

"The bill is also supported by members of this committee. Sixteen Committee members are cosponsors, as are now 60 of our Senate colleagues. In particular, I'd like to thank Senators Chafee, Grassley, Hatch, Murkowski, Mack, Baucus, Rockefeller, Breaux, Conrad, Graham, Bryan, Kerrey, and Robb for their leadership and assistance. Let me also acknowledge again the dedication and commitment of Senators Moynihan, Jeffords and Kennedy, without which we would not be here today.

"The Work Incentives Act is intended to resolve a Catch-22 that people with disabilities too often face today -- a choice between working and losing their Medicaid or Medicare benefits. This is a choice no one should have to make. But, even modest earnings can result in a loss of eligibility for Medicaid or Medicare.

"The fear of losing health insurance contributes significantly to an unemployment rate of nearly 75% among working-age adults with disabilities. Our bill creates new options to solve the 'work versus health care' dilemma.

"In addition to the health care innovations in our bill, it also provides a user-friendly, public-private approach to job placement and a improved payment system for vocational rehabilitation services for SSDI and SSI beneficiaries. Beneficiaries will now have more choices in getting help to return to work, and vocational rehabilitation agencies will be rewarded for helping beneficiaries remain on the job.

"Both the health care and the job assistance provisions in our bill will help disabled Americans succeed in the work place. And our society will be enriched by unleashing the creativity and industry of people with disabilities eager to work.

"I am pleased that S. 331 has developed real momentum in the Senate. This momentum is beginning to spill over into the House through the leadership of our colleagues on the Commerce and Ways and Means Committees, and we expect a companion bill to be introduced shortly. In his State of the Union Address, President Clinton also endorsed the bill.

"I am hopeful we can all work together over the next few months to get this bill passed by both Houses and sent to the President for his signature."