Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

December 22, 2013

George Weeks: Stabenow key player on domestic issues

As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, six-term Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator, has been a dominant figure on national security matters.

Three-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s emerging role as a pivotal player on major domestic matters was underscored last week on three fronts:

--When the White House staged a national media conference call Thursday on what repeal of the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare as it is known—would cost each state, it chose as advocates Stabenow and Democratic congressmen from two other states to make the pitch. (Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Joaquin Castro of Texas.)

Despite the many acute problems of its launch (Obama fessed Friday, “Obviously, we screwed it up”), Stabenow Thursday said the act “is literally saving lives.”

Among Michigan specifics cited in the White House summary is that “2,386,000 individuals on private insurance have gained coverage for at least one free preventive health care service such as a mammogram, birth control, or an immunization in 2011 and 2012.

“In the first eleven months of 2013 alone, an additional 958,000 people with Medicare have received at least one preventive service at no

out of pocket cost.

“The up to 4,394,000 individuals with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, cancer, or diabetes – including up to 556,000 children – will no longer have to worry about being denied coverage or charged higher prices.”

--Stabenow’s leadership on mental health issues was highlighted in the White House call and at a Capitol Hill event with actress Glenn Close, who has a sister not properly diagnosed and said mental issues should be identified as well as diabetes and cancer.

Stabenow, whose father had a bipolar disorder, said on the conference call that health care involves issues “above the neck as well as below the neck.”

A version of Stabenow’s Excellence in Mental Health Act recently cleared committee as an amendment to a broader health care bill that is due to be taken up by the full Senate early next year.

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