Energy and Commerce
From health care to energy costs to telecommunications and consumer protection, the issues before the House Energy & Commerce Committee have a profound impact on the everyday lives of families in the 4th District and around the country. In Massachusetts in particular, this Committee oversees the key drivers of our growing innovation economy.
In an increasingly complex global landscape, our environment, economy, and energy sources are all interconnected. Congress must make wise decisions that foster economic growth today while protecting the climate for generations to come. As we face an unprecedented level of global conflict and unrest, energy independence is more critical than ever before.
A comprehensive energy policy should make optimal use of existing energy sources while investing in technologies that promote the research and development of renewable energy forward -- without compromising conservation or environmental protection efforts. As a member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, I support legislative efforts that reflect these priorities and have repeatedly stood up against attempts to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce essential environmental regulations.
These issues have a direct impact in our communities. As families and businesses across our region continues to face record-high energy rates, I led several Members of Congress in urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to fix the system by which energy rates are set across New England. Our region needs a system that protects ratepayers, incentivizes grid innovation, and tackles our pervasive capacity shortfall.
Moreover, I have worked with local municipalities to help them effectively implement new environmental regulations, which can often be costly and difficult to navigate . After hearing about the high costs that several 4th District communities were facing in their attempts to be EPA compliant, I raised the issue with the EPA Administrator and have since been working with the Agency and local stakeholders to find a solution that is feasible for all parties involved.
Massachusetts has long been at the forefront of alternative energy development, and I believe that leadership must be preserved and promoted. Companies across the 4th District are leading the way, from advancements in LED lighting technology to solar installations, offshore wind to green construction. Not only will these developments create a more sustainable energy future, they will also drive growth and job creation as we retrofit buildings, implement new commercial applications of clean technology, and train our next generation of clean energy workers through innovative programs at schools like Boston College and Bristol Community College.
In Washington, I have worked to support policy that helps promote continued clean energy development, through measures like the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC).
Our energy policy cannot ignore the real and imminent threat of climate change. We cannot pave the way for economic growth tomorrow without preserving the natural resources and climate stability that our country will continue to depend upon. With a diverse energy portfolio that uses domestic fossil fuels wisely and invests in the development of clean and renewable sources, we will be able to protect our global climate while creating new jobs and greater energy security and independence.
Access to quality health care is a right that belongs to every American. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) achieved a historic milestone when it turned this principle into law, extending high quality coverage to millions of Americans who previously had no coverage at all. Since its enactment in 2010, the ACA has made significant changes to America’s health care system including comprehensive insurance reforms to prevent unfair practices and the creation of state-based health insurance exchanges and tax credits for small business. The ACA also has helped to slow down the skyrocketing cost of health care in this country. In fact, the growth of national health care expenditures is at its lowest rate in over 50 years. I will continue to support efforts that slow health care spending while increasing quality, accessibility, and efficiency of health care.
As we strengthen and streamline our health care system so that it can accommodate the increasing demands of a larger and an older population, we must improve system-wide efficiency by coordinating comprehensive care. From full implementation of the ACA’s provisions to electronic health records to the demands of caring for an aging population, our country’s health care system will require new and thoughtful approaches to efficiency, cost containment, and innovation.
As we continue to seek the new treatments and technologies that lower costs and improve outcomes, we will need to make a sustained commitment to research. That’s why we must prioritize funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as we make tough choices about federal spending and deficit reduction. Massachusetts receives more per capita NIH funding than any other state, more than $36 million in the 4th District alone in 2014. This funding saves lives and its protection is a moral and economic imperative. NIH support for AIDS research, for example, has significantly decreased the amount of deaths from the disease worldwide. We can make similar gains in Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and autism, but we must fund the research that gets us there.
The United States has built the world’s leading medical schools and research hospitals through a commitment to education, research, and innovation. If we maintain this focus today, we will also be able to maintain our commitment to ensuring that every American has access to quality healthcare.
Here in Massachusetts, medical innovation is an integral part of our economy. Massachusetts is the number one state in total life sciences employment per capita. As of 2012, over 600 life sciences firms, 500 medical device companies and 200 drug development firms were located in our state. Protecting this ecosystem will not only fuel economic growth but continue the research and development of life-changing technologies as our healthcare system faces unprecedented demographic demands.
If you need help in signing up for insurance or have questions, you may call the General Health Connector and MassHealth HelpLine at 1-855-624-4585, TTY: 1-877-623-7773. Also, you can find more information about the Massachusetts’s Connector at: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/, 1-877 MA-ENROLL (1-877-623-6765), or TTY 1-877-623-7773.
Mental Health & Addiction
Finally, our system must wipe out the unfair stigma often associated with mental health care. Just as the ACA eliminated an insurance company’s ability to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, it also ended their discrimination against individuals living with mental illness or substance use disorders. The ACA builds on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and requires coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services as one of ten essential health benefits categories. That means most insurance companies can no longer impose different limits on the number of visits for physical care versus behavioral health. They will not be able to charge higher co-pays for mental health and substance abuse treatments than for physical care, and insurance companies will be prohibited from having tougher requirements for the approval of care for mental illness than for physical illness. Congress must continue to work toward the goal of full parity for mental health care.
As communities across the country struggle in particular with the rising human and economic costs of prescription drug abuse, I am working with my colleagues on the Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus to continue pursuing legislative solutions. From a bill to increase tamper-resistant technologies in dangerously addictive opiates, to proposals that would increase mental health services in our communities, we remain committed to working with local stakeholders across the country to tackle this fast-growing addiction crisis.
I was a kid when the first cell phone came out. Less than two decades later, the phones most Americans carry in their pockets have more computing power than the computers that took us to the moon. When it comes to technology, the only thing we can be certain of is that the pace of innovation and advancement will continue to increase. We need to ensure Washington gets policy in this area right, so our country is leading the world – not catching up.
Smart telecommunications policy is critical not only to encourage further innovation but to ensure equal access to information. In a country wrestling with a pervasive opportunity gap, issues like broadband access, net neutrality, and network consolidation are as much about economic justice as they are about economic growth.
A free and fair Internet is one of the fundamental cornerstones of our modern economy, demanding net neutrality policies that put every consumer, entrepreneur and business on a level playing field. At the same time, too many communities across our country struggle to access basic broadband services. Ensuring low-income neighborhoods, rural towns and inner cities are connected to the technology defining our economic future is a key priority of mine as a member of the E&C Committee. Every school and library in America should have access to today’s digital learning tools; and all consumers have a right to reliable service, billing transparency, and clear fees and caps.
Finally, there are few issues more pressing on a global and national scale than cyber-security. From defending our businesses to safeguarding private information to protecting our national security, it is essential that the United States dramatically improve and expand its efforts to defend digital information.
Please visit the E&C Committee website for more information: https://energycommerce.house.gov/. You can also visit the E&C Democrats website here: https://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/.
More on Energy and Commerce
Washington, D.C. – With at least five states seeking federal waivers to implement lifetime limits on Medicaid patients, Congressman Joe Kennedy III today urged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to reject the proposals. Leading a letter that all twenty-three of his Democratic colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee signed, Kennedy raised concerns with the President’s proposed Medicaid budget, as well as Secretary Azar’s lack of knowledge about the waivers during recent Congressional testimony.
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Joe Kennedy III and Senator Elizabeth Warren today reintroduced the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act, which will hold health insurers accountable for providing adequate mental health benefits and increase transparency for consumers seeking coverage for mental illness and substance use disorders.