Over 46 million Americans are uninsured, an additional 16 million have only inadequate health care coverage, and both of those numbers are on the rise. It should be our goal to cover every American. We must support programs that help cover people with disabilities, such as the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. When I served as a member in the House of Representatives, I cosponsored and voted for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and I will continue to support legislation to end discrimination based on disability. I support increasing the number of children with health insurance by expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program. I am also working to make private health insurance more affordable for small businesses and their employees by pooling together into one risk and purchasing pool.
I cannot support the Bush Administration's proposed cuts to Medicaid. By providing coverage for low-income children, families, senior citizens, and individuals with disabilities, Medicaid provides an essential safety net which must be preserved. I will work to improve the new Medicare drug plan. Adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare was long overdue, but the plan that was enacted was too complicated, too confusing, and flawed -- with serious gaps in coverage that continue to leave some seniors with large medication bills. A Medicare-run drug plan would be simpler, more dependable and more effective at negotiating lower drug prices. Access to affordable, high-quality health care is critical to our nation's health and to our economic future.
I have long supported mental health initiatives. I have worked to expand access to high-quality mental health services and to increase funding for important mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. In 2006, I introduced a resolution in the Senate expressing our commitment to end discrimination against Americans living with mental illness by making legislation relating to mental health parity a priority. I have cosponsored legislation requiring employers who offer health care coverage to provide mental health benefits as comprehensive as coverage of other medical and surgical benefits.
Another response to mental health that I strongly believe in is family-based substance abuse treatment programs. I have introduced legislation to expand access to these comprehensive family-based substance abuse treatment programs for pregnant and parenting women suffering from methamphetamine addiction, especially those who live in rural areas. I have also introduced legislation to provide education and screening services for post-partum depression and have worked with other senators to promote early identification and treatment of postpartum depression in new mothers.
Though it is important to improve our healthcare system by supporting new medical facilities, hospital beds, and physician services, the truth is that these will do very little to reduce the root causes of illness. Too many children are growing up unhealthy; as a result, they are at a higher risk for developing medical problems later in life. I have been a leader in the Senate in reducing tobacco use among young people and ensuring for Americans the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air. I have supported legislation to discourage young people from smoking, and I support giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco. To ensure a healthier population and lower healthcare costs, I consistently advocate for prevention and public health programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I support funding for public health education and intervention for challenges ranging from asthma and autism to obesity to inactivity.
Despite the extraordinary progress in health care in recent years, minority Americans continue to experience more health challenges than do American Caucasians. I am a cosponsor of legislation aimed at eliminating health disparities through education and training, healthcare quality and access, research, data collection, and leadership and collaboration. I am also an active supporter of efforts to promote freedom from hunger, and I have worked consistently over the years to preserve and strengthen federal nutrition programs including WIC, Food Stamps, and School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.
Over 1.5 million Illinoisans live in medically underserved areas where there aren't enough primary healthcare providers. Given the growing nursing shortage; the uncertain supply of physicians; the availability of dentists, pharmacists, and other health professionals in high need areas; and the diversity of our healthcare workforce, I am working on several fronts to improve the quality and quantity of health care workforce professionals.
I am a strong supporter of Title VII programs, and have worked to expand and strengthen programs like Centers of Excellence, the Health Careers Opportunity Programs, and Loan Repayment programs. I am a leader in advocating for nursing issues and have introduced legislation to address one of the major causes of the nationwide nursing shortage --not enough nursing school faculty-- by providing grants to nurse colleges so they can train, recruit and retain nurse educators. In addition, I have also worked with another senator to introduce legislation that would strengthen and improve the capacity of the public health workforce to respond to emerging infectious diseases, food-borne illnesses, and bioterrorism.
Our nation needs a greater investment in stem cell research. Millions of people with debilitating diseases and disabilities could one day benefit from embryonic stem-cell therapy or the therapies that come from stem cell-based research. The potential of this research is giving hope to those with Parkinson's disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, among others.
The Bush Administration's current policy is causing the United States to fall behind in the global race for stem cell therapies, endangering our status as the world's frontrunner for medical research, and denying the promise of treatment to millions of sick Americans. Many countries have fewer restrictions on embryonic stem cell research than the United States. We cannot compete globally without the full support of the federal government, which is the primary source of funds for basic biomedical research. Other sources of funding, such as private and state-based funding, are beneficial, but they cannot compensate for the current limits on federally funded research. We must be ethical in our pursuit of medical breakthroughs for families suffering from disease, and I support legislation to ensure that such guidelines are firmly in place.