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Pelosi, Reid & Democratic Leaders Mark Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Democratic leaders delivered remarks marking the start of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act and encouraging uninsured Americans to get covered.  Below are the Leader’s opening and closing remarks:

“Good afternoon.  And a good afternoon it is, isn’t it?  On this day when we begin the enrollment of the Affordable Care Act, how exciting!  It’s an honor to be here with each and every one of you, with some of my colleagues, our special guests, and of course, Leader Reid.  Thank you to our friends of organized labor who are here.  Two in particular I want to mention: Lee Saunders from AFSCME and Mary Kay Henry from SEIU.

[Applause]

“Imagine if you had been there when Social Security was enacted.  Would that not had been so thrilling?  Or if you had been there when Medicare became the law of the land – actually, Chairman Dingell and Chairman Rangel were. 

[Laughter]

“Social Security and Medicare have stood as pillars for decades of our families’ health and economic security, transforming the lives of millions of Americans who worked hard to earn the security they deserved.  After decades of fighting for the dream of health care reform, we have added a third pillar of security: the Affordable Care Act.

[Applause]

“To make health care a right for all, not just a privilege for the few.  Unfortunately, for our country, last night House Republicans irresponsibly shut down government as a desperate attempt to shut down the Affordable Care Act.  We will work together and reach out and try to get government open again to work for the American people.  And while we are sad that they have shuttered the doors of America’s government, they cannot diminish our enthusiasm for the history we are making today.

[Applause]

“The dedicated members of AFSCME and the SEIU and other friends in labor who are here, played an integral part in making sure millions of people know about the patient rights and protections offered in this law.

“Again, I thank you to Mary Kay Henry of the SEIU; thank you to Lee Saunders at AFSCME – for your leadership, for your dedication, and for your perseverance in making the Affordable Care Act a reality for the American people.   Thanks also to Americans United for Change for your leadership.  Thank you all very much.

[Applause]

“As we speak, Health Insurance Marketplaces across the country are open for enrollment, offering American families more competition, more choices, and most importantly, affordable, quality health care.  Over a million people have called in and the day is young – much more than a million people.  And in different states across the country, many more people – it’s pretty exciting even though, there was an attempt to say: ‘We are going to distract everyone from the enrollment of the Affordable Care Act by shutting down government.’  The American people are ready.

“As we speak, Health Insurance Marketplaces are open.  Health reform is not only about expanded access to those who did not have coverage, but better access and more affordable access for those who do.  This is about you.  If anyone in your family has a preexisting condition, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma, you name the long list, you will be sure that they get the coverage they need.  No longer will those diseases be considered a preexisting medical condition. 

[Applause]

“And no longer will they have annual limits or lifetime limits on the coverage they can receive.  Americans with these preexisting conditions are one thing, but those predisposed to those conditions will now have preventative care and this is a very important thing to reduce risk.

“So, here we are.  It’s not enough that the Affordable Care Act is already lowering costs for small businesses, for families, for individuals, for state and local federal government.  It is reducing the deficit as we speak.  The law honors the values of our founders of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – a healthier life, the liberty to pursue your happiness.  If you’re a photographer, an artist…

[Laughter]

“If you want to be self-employed, start your own business, change jobs, you can follow your passion [and] not be job-locked by your policy.  These values rest at the foundation of our nation’s strength.  These values drove us to enact the Affordable Care Act, to make history for our country, [and] make progress for the American people.  Our message to them and to all of you: get covered, get covered!

[Applause]

“And now, I have the great privilege of yielding the floor to a person who made the Affordable Care Act possible and has been one of the staunchest defenders in these last days, as some people, some same people who opposed Social Security and Medicare, were trying to shut down the Affordable Care Act, our champion: Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

[Applause]

[Leader Pelosi’s Closing Remarks]

“That was beautiful.  You just heard from the [Chairmen] of the Committees who helped write the bill.  In the Senate, Senator Harkin and Senator Baucus.  In the House [of Representatives], Chairman Waxman, Chairman Miller, Chairman Levin, and before him, Chairman Rangel.  On the Small Business [Committee], Chairwoman Velázquez – one of the first women to chair a full committee in the history of our country.  We are so proud of her.

[Applause]

“Now you know why we were so successful.  Our special guests, Leslie [Boyd] and Morin [Murphy], we thank them for speaking more eloquently about all of this. 

[Applause]

“I just want to add this thought and that is: on the night that the bill passed, I spoke to President Obama and the next day he called again.  And he said: ‘I’ve been thinking and last night when you all passed the ACA on the floor of the House, I was happier than the night I was elected President of the United States.’

[Applause]

“I said: ‘Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you, Mr. President.  I was pretty happy last night myself but I wasn’t happier than I was the night you were elected President of the United States, because if you we weren’t elected President of the United States, we wouldn’t have been able to pass this bill.’  We simply could not have done it without him, without President Obama.

[Applause]

“With his vision, with his determination, with his ideas – but we could not have done it without all of you as well.  So, I thank you for that.  And I want to join in acknowledging a person who’s with us in spirit and had this idea for such a long time, Senator Kennedy.

[Applause]

“He was there from the start, before the start.  He went to heaven to help us pass the bill, now he’s helping us implement it.  As our Members were speaking, I was thinking of my kids telling me one time: ‘Mom, get a life!’  I think we should make a button that says: ‘Get a healthy life.’  And in order to do that, you have to get covered, you have to get covered.  So let us thank all who are assembled here.  And thank you all very much, thank you to our colleagues.  Thank you.”

[Applause]