Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today on one of several amendments to the Republican Continuing Resolution that would defund the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Below are the Leader's remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank the gentle lady for yielding. I commend her for her leadership on the very important issue--the health and well being of the American people.
“I rise in opposition to the amendment that is on the floor today and also the underlying bill of which it is a part. The American people are desperate for jobs. They have sent us here to work together to create jobs. In the sixth week of this new Majority, not one piece of legislation has come forward to create one job. Showing the lack of ideas to do so, the Republican Majority has chosen instead to change the subject, to take up a bill of such consequence without hearings, without really an open process, to make amendments to it with the allusion of open debate.
“And now, they come before us, again without hearings, in amendment form to this bill and say they want to repeal, have no funds go to enact provision of the health care bill, which was passed before. Let's talk about the consequences of your actions here today. What would it mean to people in our country if this amendment were to prevail? It may prevail on this floor, which is driving itself into irrelevance with the amendment process that is here, but that is another subject.
“Let's talk about the subject of this amendment. Let's talk about what this means to America's families. Let's talk about a family that came before a hearing that we had earlier in January. We heard from Stacie Ritter. She has 12 year old twins. When those adorable little girls were 4 years old, they were both diagnosed with cancer. Imagine if that happened in your family. They faced years of treatment and recovery. Their mother said they were lucky they did have health insurance. But the additional cost of the care for these children drove their family into bankruptcy.
“The children got well, thank God. But they had a pre-existing medical condition for the rest of their lives--until this bill came along. And now, their mother was pleased to testify they are not to be the objects of discrimination because they have a pre-existing medical condition. They will not face annual or lifetime caps on the benefits they receive. These healthy young girls now will be able to proceed in a healthy way, not discriminated against.
“Or let's talk about Vernal Branch, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago. Ever since, she has struggled to find health insurance because--even though she had cancer, and for the moment is free of cancer, and God willing forever free of cancer--she had a pre-existing medical condition, which meant that she would be discriminated against in terms of getting health insurance--until this came along. Vernal Branch told us that the Affordable Care Act represented protection from the uncertainty and fear that came from being diagnosed and being denied health insurance coverage because of a past disease.
“Passing this amendment would stop the reform and mean that 129 million Americans, like Vernal, 129 million Americans would lose coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition. Do you understand what that means in the lives of these people?
“And to our seniors--the subject has been brought up over and over again about our seniors. Claudette Therriault and her husband Richard are seniors on Medicare. Richard is a diabetic, and his insulin alone costs nearly $1,000 a month. When they fell into the donut hole, they were forced to choose between defaulting on the loan on their home or paying for Richard's health. As Claudette put it: ‘Well, we chose my husband's health.' But changes that we made in this bill are starting to change the donut hole so families aren't forced to choose between paying their mortgage or paying for their medicine. Passing this amendment would mean that over 2.7 million Medicare beneficiaries would again fall into the donut hole, and Medicare would no longer be able to pay for the annual check-up for 44 million seniors in our country.
“Mr. Kingston says that his children are old enough, and they should be able to take care of themselves even though they are under 26 years old. Bravo for you. But that's not the way it is for many young people across the country even if they do have a job. You say they don't have insurance because they don't have a job. It may be news to you, but there are many, many, many working Americans who do not have health insurance--but they will under the Affordable Care Act. If this amendment were to pass, immediately, if it were to become law, immediately, all of those children who can now be on their parents' policy, if their parents are willing, would lose their health insurance.
“With a job or without a job, these young people coming out of school are idealistic, ambitious. They want to follow their passions, their pursuits. That's what our founders told them they could do: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. These young people want a healthier life to pursue their happiness, to choose a job not based on the health benefits it may or may not provide, but to choose an occupation which address their aspirations--not ours, theirs.
“And so, I just want to repeat back to our colleagues something I heard them say over and over again. They said we didn't read the bill. Well, we did, but clearly, you did not. And I urge you to read the bill because, if you did, you would see that the bill puts medical decisions in the hands of patients and doctors, not your favorite insurance companies. You would see that it brings down the cost of prescription drugs for seniors. You would see that it ends the days of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps on care of children and families. You would see that no longer, under this bill, no longer would being a woman be a pre-existing medical condition as it is now, as women are discriminated against in terms of price and access to insurance. You would see that it offers tax credits to millions of small businesses who choose to do right by their employees and offer insurance benefits.
“It was for all of these Americans that we acted. It is for them that we stand here today to oppose this amendment. And if you read the bill, you will see contrary, contrary to misrepresentations that were set forth by those who do the bidding of the health insurance industry in our country, you would see what the bill does. You would see that it is about innovation. It's about prevention. It's about care, a healthier America, not just health care in America. It's about using the technologies of the future. It's about bringing health care closer to people where they live, to lower the cost, to improve the quality, to expand the access. You would see that it is a bill about the future. Instead of the misrepresentations about this, that, and the other thing, which I don't even want to repeat here, you would see that this is transformative for our country because it gives people, it gives people the liberty, again, to pursue their lives.
“And so, I would like to know how many of you read the bill. We read it over and over again to each other, drilling down on different parts of it. So we know of what we speak when we come to this floor. And maybe if you knew more about it, you wouldn't be so quick to say: ‘We do not want to allow children to stay on their parents' policies. We do not want to end discrimination on the basis of pre-existing condition for our children. We do not want to begin to close the donut hole. We do not want to have preventive medicines without cost and co-pay for our seniors.' The list goes on and on. So that is what is happening here today.
“This is, yet again, another example of our friends standing up for the insurance companies at the expense of the American people, standing up for the insurance company at the expense of the health and well-being of our country. It is, again, an example of Washington, D.C. holding on to the special interests, status quo. It is again, this Congress saying to the American people: ‘We are here for the special interests. We are not here for the people's interests. To Stacie, we are not here for your two daughters. For Vernal, we are not here for women and having them end having being a woman being a pre-existing condition.' To Claudette and Richard, to say to them: ‘Too bad about your mortgage. If you can't pay your mortgage because you have to pay your medical bills, so be it.'
“I urge my colleagues to vote against this amendment which is another manifestation of the ‘So be it' attitude of some in Congress at the expense of many in our country.”