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Pelosi Remarks at Families USA Conference

Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave remarks at the Families USA conference today.  Below are her remarks as prepared:

'Thank you Ron Pollack for your kind introduction.  Your leadership and vision have been critical to our efforts to take America in a new direction, a healthier America

'I know many of you have traveled a long way to be a part of this very important conference: Health Action 2008.  I would like to especially acknowledge those of you here from California and San Francisco.

'Thank you for the opportunity to join you in honoring the Frost family. This past September, we all saw the courage the Frost family had, speaking truth to power to insure 10 million children through SCHIP.  But those bent on thwarting our efforts tried to defame the Frost family instead of listening to their message. 

'Graeme and Gemma advocated for all of America's children. Families USA

advocates for all Americans, as you say, 'promoting high quality affordable health care for all Americans.'

'That health care must translate into a healthier America. 

'In that regard, I am holding ongoing meetings with leaders from medicine, public policy, grassroots organizing, academia, and the business community on the subject of health and health care.  

'Let me be clear: universal access to affordable health care is a fundamental right and our overarching principle. 

'When we talk about universal access, we must be clear what we are talking about.  The experts agree, all Americans must have universal access to the best research, quality and personalized care, and prevention.  

'Together, we must create a healthier America -- a healthier America means a major investment in basic biomedical research, while ensuring universal access to it, a healthier America means a common medical record to ensure quality, a healthier America means personalized care: every American gets care customized to their needs, a healthier America must contain a strong dose of prevention. 

'In regard to the significance of biomedical research in creating a healthier America, imagine the day when cancer is as extinct as smallpox.  Imagine the benefits that would mean to our families, our economy, and our future. 

'This year, we will spend about $5.5 billion on total cancer research, or the cost of about two weeks of the war in Iraq.  Yet every year, cancer kills 560,000 Americans - 1500 people per day. 

'Where there is scientific opportunity, we have a moral responsibility to invest in it.  And when we do so, we have a national responsibility to make its benefits available to all Americans.  This progress belongs to the American people and Americans all have a right to benefit from it.   

'Essential to a healthier America, is a common record of electronic medical records, starting at birth to ensure quality.  This will help reduce error, lower cost, and improve health through the coordination of personalized care.  Protecting confidentiality and privacy is essential. 

'We also have to make sure the health care field attracts and retains the finest minds and the most compassionate hearts.  We need to support the education of doctors, nurses and other health professionals with more faculty and coordinated education across disciplines.  Better teams provide better care. 

'To provide quality care, it must be personalized to the individual.  Right now, too many Americans are being treated with a 'one size fits all' approach to medicine.  

'Research tells us that only 42% of Americans with diabetes receive state of the art treatment.  21% receive poor treatment and 30% of American with diabetes receive no treatment at all. 

'Of all the women diagnosed with breast cancer, over half receive some form of chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or both.   This treatment is toxic and in some cases not necessary. By targeting chemotherapy treatment to the 15-30% of women who will have a recurrence, we will reduce unnecessary exposure to toxicities and save women from unnecessary suffering.  Personalized care is the wave of the future.  The science and technology are there, and by making it universally available, we are creating a healthier America. 

'Essential to establishing a healthier American is aggressive community outreach. 

'We cannot continue to permit minorities to be more likely than others to lack health insurance, receive lower-quality care, and suffer from worse health outcomes.  We must reduce these disparities. 

'Today, some 1,100 Community Health Centers have committed themselves to providing high-quality, affordable primary health care to more than 16 million people nationwide, regardless of their ability to pay, in more than 6,000 communities. All are welcomed equally and served with professionalism and excellence.

'Supporting community health centers and offering loan forgiveness to encourage doctors to practice in areas that need better medical care are just two examples of how to reach into communities, but they cannot be the only ways.

'Our current system of care is based on managing acute sickness on an episodic basis -- a costly and unsustainable approach.

'For a healthier America, we need to promote healthy lifestyle changes, such as nutrition and exercise, and create incentives for the public to participate in the health care system before they get sick. 

'A new focus on prevention through Medicare can improve health for America's seniors and people with disabilities. 

'We need to transition our places of education, America's schools, into opportunities for children to obtain better health through good nutrition and exercise. 

'A healthier America means we must ensure that illness in the brain is treated just like illness anywhere else in the body.

'This year, Congress will pass the Kennedy-Ramstad mental health parity bill.  It will help ensure that individuals with mental health illnesses, and addictions are given the attention, treatment, and resources they need to live a healthy life.

'This is an issue of national importance.  In a given year, about one in four adult Americans suffer from a mental disorder, resulting in 1.3 billion lost days of work or school.  There is more lost productivity for mental illness than arthritis, stroke, heart attack and cancer combined.

'If we insure mental illness like any other medical disease, Americans will get the lifesaving treatment they need. 

'This will be especially important to our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. 

'With our brave men and women in uniform first in mind, this year we added $6.6 billion to our veterans health budget - the largest increase in the 77 year history of the VA. 

'Now I will end where I began - with our efforts to insure 10 million American children through SCHIP. 

'As recently as yesterday, even with the bipartisan coalitions you helped to build, we couldn't override the opposition of the President.  To make matters worse, he has unilaterally, by executive order, issued directives that will make it even harder for children to be insured. 

'The choice couldn't be clearer: for the cost of 40 days in Iraq, we could insure 10 million children in America for a year. 

'This fight is not over.  We will never give up until every eligible child is insured through SCHIP.

'It is as Speaker, and as a mother, that I come here today to join you in demanding a healthier America. 

'We have millions of health care providers in America.  They are called families. 

'Families know that a healthier America begins with children who are given every opportunity to grow up healthy and strong. 

'And families know that a healthier America recognizes that the health of our citizens is a measure of our strength as a nation. 

'Above all, Families USA knows.  Thank you Ron Pollack!  Thank you Families USA!'