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Pelosi to American Hospital Association: 'In Backing Health Reform, You Stood Up for the Well-Being of All Americans'

Washington, D.C.-- Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks this morning at the American Hospital Association's (AHA) annual membership meeting.  The AHA is the national organization that represents and serves all types of hospitals, health care networks, and their patients and communities.  Below are the Speaker's remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Rich [Umbdenstock], for that kind introduction and for your leadership in fulfilling the American Hospital Association's mission: to ‘advance the health of individuals and communities.' And thank you to Rick de Filippi, John Bluford, Tom Priselac, and all of the AHA leaders here today.

“Thank you for your help in passing health insurance reform.  Every day, you stand up for the health of all patients.  In backing reform, you stood up for the well-being of all Americans.

“I also want to congratulate Dr. Mark Laney from Heartland Health in St. Joseph, Missouri, on being awarded the Foster McGaw Prize - recognition of his leadership at a hospital that sets the standard for quality and patient care.

“I want to especially acknowledge Duane Dauner of the California Hospital Association, a friend and a tremendous intellectual resource to California's Members of Congress.

“For more than a century, the American Hospital Association - and the people and institutions it represents - has worked to fulfill its vision of ‘a society of healthy communities where all individuals reach their highest potential for health.'

“Day in and day out, you live up to this vision by caring for the sick and nursing those in need back to health.

“We see your commitment to high quality care as patients ourselves; and we witness your truly extraordinary work on the frontlines of disaster.

“When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the area's hospitals stayed open through the storm and the days after - providing care in the face of chaos, offering people hope in a time of devastation and despair.

“In January - after an earthquake left Haiti in ruin - hospitals across the United States sent teams of doctors, nurses, and surgeons to Port-au-Prince to care for the wounded.

“I'm especially proud of the help that came from California hospitals: Help came from Scripps Health System in San Diego, where a team of clinicians immediately rushed to Haiti, bringing medical supplies, treating the survivors, and reaffirming why hospitals exist: to serve.  As Scripps' CEO Chris Van Gorder said: ‘When everybody else is running away, doctors and nurses run in… We are the first responders.'

“Help came to Haiti from the Sutter Health Network in Sacramento, where a seven-member surgical care team deployed to Port-au-Prince with desperately-needed medication and equipment.

“Help came from every part of the country, unsure what challenges lay ahead, yet prepared to do what was necessary for the health of a community in need.  As Rich Umbdenstock said at the time, through your actions: ‘The compassion and generosity of America's hospitals continue to humble and inspire.'

“This same vision - of health, service, and devotion to the well-being of others - inspired our drive for quality, affordable health care for every American.  It is a mission that echoes the declaration of our Founders: that ‘all are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'

“Health care reform is about healthier lives and more liberty to pursue your hopes and dreams.  It's about an economy that encourages an entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, and making America's businesses more competitive.

“In passing this legislation, we made history for our country and progress for the American people.  Others before us gave our nation Social Security and Medicare.  This year, we added health care for all Americans.

“Throughout the debate over health care reform, we were inspired by the stories of so many Americans struggling to get by; fighting to afford their next doctor's appointment.

“We heard from an 8-year-old boy who had a stroke - then had a pre-existing condition for life.  Starting this year, he will no longer have to worry about being denied coverage or access to critically-needed care.

“We received a letter from the mother of a young woman with diabetes, who was kicked off her father's insurance the day she graduated from college.  She couldn't afford coverage and had to wean herself off of her nighttime insulin dosage. One morning, she slipped into a coma and never woke up.  Starting this year, she and other young Americans will be able to stay on their parents' plans until age 26.

“I even saw a grown man cry - a senior in Michigan whose wife had been sick for 16 years. He told me he didn't know how he'd pay the medical bills, and he worried he might lose his house because of the cost of care.  And he was too embarrassed to tell his children. 

“For these Americans - for all of our families, workers, and businesses - health reform means:

  • Affordability for the middle class;
  • Access for millions more Americans;
  • Accountability for the insurance industry.

“For America's hospitals, it means:

  • 32 million patients with an insurance card;
  • Fewer uncompensated emergency room visits;
  • Community health centers - who provide care to 20 million Americans - will receive nearly $11 billion in additional funding;
  • A larger supply of primary care physicians, advanced practice nurses, and physicians' assistants;
  • More accountable care organizations and improved health outcomes - reducing costs and improving care.

“This bill marks a giant leap forward for access and affordability.  It will truly lead - as demanded in the vision of the AHA - to ‘healthier communities' and enable millions more Americans to reach their ‘highest potential for health.'

“The morning after the bill passed the House, President Obama called me to say he was happier than the day he got elected - because health care reform would mean real change in the daily lives of so many Americans.

“But it will only work if we - hospital leaders and doctors, political leaders and medical care providers - work together to implement these reforms effectively, to control costs and improve the quality of care, and to make this bill work for patients, for hospitals, and for the health and well-being of all Americans.

“After a century-long struggle, health care reform is a reality for our nation.  Now, it's time to make the benefits of reform a reality for our families and our patients.

“Together, let's fulfill the mission of the AHA.  Together, let's live up to the theme of this meeting: ‘Dedicated to Excellence. Committed to Communities.'

“Together, let's build a healthier country and ensure a brighter tomorrow for hospitals, for doctors and nurses, and for those in your care.”