As we welcome new legislators, we do say goodbye to one Congressman who was a leader for health care over decades: California Rep. Pete Stark.
His longtime chief of staff, Debbie Curtis, has written in Roll Call a nice remembrance of Stark’s career, especially as a champion for health reform and health care consumers. Here’s an excerpt:
Each day, millions of Americans are helped by legislation he authored and pushed to enactment through four decades of dedicated public service.
Serving as either chairman or ranking member of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee since 1985, his mark on health policy — especially Medicare — can’t be overstated.
He created COBRA health insurance coverage, which has allowed millions of Americans to maintain coverage while they are between jobs. He authored the life-saving Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which requires emergency rooms to treat patients suffering from health emergencies before questioning whether they have health insurance.
Like the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and other legislators with substantial accomplishments on health, Stark’s approach was nothing if not practical. He never let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but he could always be counted on to lead the charge in opposition to provisions that would take the nation backward.
He worked closely with President George Bush and organized the health care industry to develop the formula that underlies the Medicare physician payment system now used by most private insurers. The health IT provisions in the 2009 stimulus, which are helping modernize our health care system, are modeled on his legislation, the Health-e Information and Technology Act of 2008. He wrote the “Stark laws,” which limit physician self-referral arrangements that put profit ahead of patient care.
As both Californians, and as consumer advocates, we will miss him.
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