Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today in support of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. The House will vote on the legislation later tonight. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
“Madam Speaker, today, as we all know, is an historic moment for our nation and for American families. For nearly a century, leaders of every party and political philosophy - as far back as Teddy Roosevelt - have called for health care for the American people. For generations, the American people have called for affordable, quality health care for their families. Today, the call will be answered. Today, we will pass the Affordable Health Care for America Act.
“This legislation is founded on key principles for a healthier America: innovation, competition, and prevention. It improves quality, lowers cost, expands coverage to 36 million more people and retains choice. Our innovation began in the recovery package in January - with $19 billion for health IT, the first step in lowering cost and improving quality, and $8 billion investments in biomedical research. This legislation will mean affordability for the middle-class, security for our seniors, and honors our responsibility to our children, adding not one dime to the deficit.
“For all Americans, this legislation makes a big difference: no discrimination for pre-existing medical conditions, no dropped coverage if you are sick, no co-pays for preventive care. There is a cap on what you pay in but there is no cap on the benefits that you receive. It works for seniors closing the donut hole, offering better primary care, and strengthening Medicare for years to come. It works for women preventing insurance companies from charging women more than men for the same coverage. No longer will being a woman be a pre-existing medical condition.
“It works for young people, offers affordable choices, and ends co-pays for preventive care to stop problems before they start and allows young people to stay on their parents' premium until their 27th birthday. It works for small business owners providing access to affordable group rates and creating a tax credit for them to help them insure their employees. It works for consumers keeping the insurance companies honest and encouraging competition with a public option. This legislation puts you and your doctor in charge. No longer will the insurance companies come between you and your doctor.
“President Obama has said that health care reform is entitlement reform. And this legislation proves that point. It is fiscally sound, it is paid for, and it reduces the deficit by tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years. This legislation is the result of extensive deliberations here in the Congress where we have held more than 100 hearings and prodded extensive input from the American people. Members of Congress have held over 3,000 town meetings. And it resulted in a better bill than H.R. 3200, however excellent that was. This bill is a better one with significant differences, and my colleagues have pointed them out, Congresswoman Dina Titus just before me at the podium.
“We are brought to this historic moment in our nation and for our families because of the work of our Chairmen -- Chairman Henry Waxman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Charlie Rangel of the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman George Miller of the Education and labor Committee, and Chairwoman Louise Slaughter of the Rules Committee. I thank all the Members of those committees, including the Rules Committee for being in so late so that we could have this legislation on the floor today. And for their ongoing service to the Congress.
“And more than 300 groups, representing tens of millions of Americans, have expressed their support for the bill -- AARP, the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association -- the list of medical groups goes on and on -- the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association. I am particularly proud that the Consumers Union has endorsed the legislation.
“My colleagues, this morning we were a part of history and we are this evening as well. A particularly poignant moment occurred when Chairman Dingell took the chair to preside over the debate at the beginning of the day for health care. When he was a young man, as a Member of Congress, he gaveled Medicare into law. It had been, as one of our colleagues said in his DNA: the pursuit of health care for all Americans. His father introduced the bill over and over again, when he was in Congress, and as his successor, he continues that great legacy. Today, he will see a lifelong dream of generations in his family come true as we begin the process of making this a reality.
“It is impossible to talk about health care reform in America without talking about Senator Edward Kennedy. His leadership and his contribution to this debate is boundless. Health insurance reform was the cause of his life. He called it ‘the great unfinished business of our society.' Of this issue, he said that what is at stake ‘is the character of our country.'
“Remember when the President came to address the joint session? He quoted the comments by Senator Kennedy from a letter that the Senator had sent to him. But the Senator also said in the letter that was sent to President Obama before he died: ‘I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America's behalf inspires the entire world.' He acknowledged President Obama's both ‘unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is the decisive issue for our future prosperity.'
“President Obama's leadership gives our nation hope. Today, with this legislation, we will give them health. President Obama has said: ‘We will measure our success by the progress that is made by America's working families.'
“Today, with passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, we will make history; we will also make progress for the America's working families. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.”