3/25/2010 — 

WASHINGTON, DC - After a marathon voting session, the U.S. Senate today approved a bill that builds on the historic health insurance reform legislation, which President Obama signed into law earlier this week.

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), who voted to strengthen the law and prevent Republicans from derailing health insurance reform, issued the following statement regarding passage of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act:

"I am pleased the Senate has strengthened health reform and filled the so-called ‘doughnut hole' to protect seniors from the prescription drug coverage gap. This bill also reforms federal student loan aid, cutting out middle-men and directing $36 billion in savings to increase Pell Grants."

During the floor debate on the measure Reed stated: "It is the dream of every parent that their child will have a better life and a big part of that dream is that they will have the opportunity to go on to college. This bill ends a student aid system that gives away billions in federal subsidies to private banks -- including some that helped create the 2008 financial meltdown -- and instead puts those tax-payer dollars directly in the hands of students to pay for their education."

Pell Grants are named after Reed's predecessor, the late Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). Enacted by Congress in 1972, and renamed in his honor eight years later, Pell Grants have made the dream of a college education a reality for over 121 million American students.

"This legislation will provide Rhode Islanders with an additional $76 million in new student aid and will raise the maximum Pell Grant to nearly $6,000 in the coming years," noted Reed.

The bill also protects over 31,500 Rhode Island seniors from the prescription drug coverage gap, also known as the ‘doughnut-hole,' which requires seniors to pay more for their medications. This year, Medicare enrollees will receive $250 when they enter the doughnut hole. Over the course of the law's implementation, this gap in prescription coverage will be gradually phased out under a plan endorsed by the AARP.

Due to a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian, two minor provisions of the student loan reform bill had to be changed because they were not deemed to have a direct effect on the budget. Therefore, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act now goes back to the U.S. House of Representatives, which could approve the final bill as early as this afternoon.

Once it is cleared by the House it goes to President Obama to be signed into law.