Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference on GOP’s All-Out Assault on Americans’ Health Care 


San Francisco – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference highlighting the Republicans’ relentless attacks on Medicare, Medicaid and people with pre-existing conditions with impacted individuals and families at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center. Below are the Leader’s remarks:

Leader Pelosi.  Hello everyone. Thank you all for being here to hear the most eloquent statements of why we have to have great public policy to address the health needs of the American people.  It’s a great honor to return to Mission Neighborhood Health Center and thank you Brenda Storey for welcoming us.  Brenda did you want to welcome us?

[Laughter]

You go first.

 

* * *

Thank you very much Brenda for your hospitality but more importantly the great work that you do to meet the needs of the families in our community here. Community health centers – I always say that if we started from scratch and had no health care system in our country, we would first carpet the country with Community Health Centers because they meet the needs, where people live, culturally appropriate in a way that respects the dignity of each person.

As Brenda said, 50 years ago, actually 53 years ago this past Monday, our government under the leadership of Lyndon Johnson made the fundamental promise of dignity and security for seniors and working families, when President Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law.

This is a pillar, Social Security in the ‘30s, Medicare and Medicaid in the ‘60s and the Affordable Care Act much later.  Pillars of not only health, but economic security for America’s families.

Two years after President Johnson signed that legislation establishing Medicare and Medicaid, Mission Neighborhood Health Center opened its doors, securing the promise of it for so many San Franciscans – millions over time.

Yet today, our nation’s bedrock guarantee of dignity and security, as the President said at the time, for all, is under direct attack.  Republicans are sticking working families with a raw deal on health care.  They’re fighting to dismantle protections for 130 million people with pre-existing conditions through the monstrosity of Trumpcare.  What happened was, because of the work of so many people, NCIL [National Council on Independent Living] included, this community was so instrumental, NCIL, Little Lobbyists, all of them, had 10,000 events around the country to say, ‘no!’ to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

But when they passed the tax bill, they put in there a provision that they interpret to be, no longer will the benefit of pre-existing condition exist, and that’s in the courts now.  Imagine that – over 130 million people, meaning 130 million families probably, depend on that access and they want to strike that benefit.

They did this handing a massive tax cut to the wealthiest families. 83 percent of the benefits went to the top 1 percent, couple trillion dollars added to the national debt.  And then they said, ‘How are we going to be pay for that?  We’re going to cut Medicare and we’re going to cut Social Security.  $1.4 billion dollars in Medicare — no — $1.4 trillion dollars in [Medicaid] and half a trillion in Medicare.  It’s stunning.  Together, two trillion, 1.4 Medicaid, half a trillion Medicare.

And in doing so they also gave massive tax cuts to pharma, the pharmaceutical industry, massive tax cuts to the CEOs of those companies and the cost of prescription drugs is just a debilitating factor in the health and financial security of America’s working families.  Give them a gift of a tax cut, make the American people pay more for pharmaceutical growth.

Shattering the guarantee of Medicare and Medicaid – for a long time now, Republicans have said that Medicare should wither on the vine.  Wither on the vine.  And in their budgets under the leadership of Speaker Ryan when he was Chair of the Budget Committee they take away the guarantee of Medicare.  It’s an ideological thing.  They don’t believe in Medicare.  A lot of times people don’t realize that.  We don’t want to be fear-mongers but the facts are what they are.  ‘Medicare should wither on the vine.’  ‘We’re going to take two trillion dollars from Medicare and Medicaid to pay for the tax cut for the rich, and at the same time, we think that we should take away the guarantee of Medicare.’

Families are already feeling the pain from the GOP sabotage campaign.  While they did not repeal the Affordable Care Act, they’re sabotaging it.  So if you’re a family of four, an average family of four will pay about $3,100 higher, higher, on their premiums because of Trump initiatives.  A 55-year-old couple, just two, will pay $3,300 more, and in California a 60-year-old person could be charged nearly $6,500 more a year in premiums.  So, what is the point of this?  To increase the cost of this to families, couples, to individuals?  Why, why, why?  Just to give a tax break to the wealthiest people in our country.  It’s just not right.

So, Congress has a responsibility to protect the American people, we believe that, but the Republicans are putting the bank accounts of the wealthy and well connected ahead of the financial security for working families.  Attacking the sacred right to health care as a right for all, not a privilege for the few – but that is not a priority.

We are offering A Better Deal For The People, Democrats are, with lower costs and stronger protections for all.  We’re fighting for the people, standing with our seniors, while the GOP sells you out to special interests.

When Brenda was telling us about how many people depend on Medicare and Medicaid, Medicare is — yes for our children, but a large of the amount of the money that is spent on our seniors comes from Medicaid.  So assault on Medicaid is not an assault on children, which would be bad enough, but on families, because of the assault that is on seniors.

A big part of our Better Deal is lowering the cost of prescription drugs.  Tough enforcement of price gouging, allowing Medicare Part D to negotiate for better prices, transparency of excessive drug price increases.  But we can’t do our inside maneuvering – it won’t count for much without inside mobilization.  Outside organizing.  We don’t agonize, we organize.

We’re so honored to be joined by courageous advocates who are telling their stories about the GOP health care sabotage and what it means in their lives.  They are the eloquent – as I said in the beginning – they are the eloquent voices telling their story, other people identify with that and recognize the damage that is being done.

We’re very pleased to be here with of course, Jonah Cohen, who is here with his mother Jennifer and other members of his family which he may introduce in his comments.

Jonah Pliner.  Maybe, maybe not.

Leader Pelosi.  What do you think, Dad?  We’ll see.  Jonah will let us know.  He is a very independent boy and we are honored he is here.  Brenda Storey, onsite patient director right here, and Christina Mills, Executive Director for California’s Center for Independent Living, will tell her story.  She is here with her son, Sage.  She will also tell the story of her daughter, Olivia.  So they are our VIPs, they are our special guests, they are the ones making the difference.

Let me just yield right now to Jonah Pliner who will, at his pleasure, decide who he will acknowledge.  We are all glad he is here.  Jonah.

 

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Leader Pelosi.  Thank you, Christina for sharing your story and thank you, Sage.  When I first met him at one of our events, he was a baby, now he is a big boy.  Darling.  It’s about family.  A really important message about Medicaid, people don’t realize that it’s a benefit across the board for middle-income families as well as for children because it is, as you heard from Christina’s story and I’ve heard it over and over again, across the country, in the Capitol, about families who are working, who have insurance but that insurance does not cover a lot of the special needs and physical challenges children have.  That’s why we need Medicaid.  That’s why we can’t block grant it.  That’s why we can’t take 1.4 trillion dollars out of it to pay for a tax cut for the wealthiest people in our country.  Another reason, as I said earlier, the care for our seniors comes from Medicaid.

This is a middle-income benefit as well as addressing the needs of our children in our country.  The disability rights community has been the most important force in trying to stop the sabotage of access to health care, whether it’s through Medicare, Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act.  So thank you, Christina, for your courage and your generosity of spirit to share your story.  Hopefully, as these stories are told across the country, Republicans in Congress will hear and overcome their ideological opposition to this public policy that meets the needs of the American people.

To Marylou Ponce, thank you for sharing your story.  The cost of prescription drugs is really a debility to people who need those drugs.  When the President ran for office, he said that he was going to insist that the Secretary of HHS be able to negotiate for lower prices for prescription drugs.  That has been a goal we have had in the Democratic Party for a long time.  We never got the 60 votes in the Senate to pass it.  We passed it in the House when we had the majority.  The President said he was going to negotiate ‘like crazy.’  When he became President, just recently he made an announcement about negotiating for prescription drugs.

Apparently negotiating ‘like crazy’ means not negotiating at all.  When he made his presentation, he didn’t mention it at all.  It was such a disappointment.  He pulled his punch.  He did not keep his promise.  Don’t take it from me, take it from the stock market.  That day, prescription drug companies, Big Pharma’s stock prices soared through the roof because they knew they were off the hook and could charge whatever they wanted to charge.  So sad.

And then the issue, of course, of Jonah telling us his story about his pre-existing conditions and how having a pre-existing condition has always been, long before Jonah was born, a barrier to affordable, quality care until the Affordable Care Act.  That was a major provision of the Affordable Care Act – no longer will having a pre-existing condition be a barrier to access to care.

When they passed the tax bill, as I mentioned earlier, and took out the individual mandate, they said that justified no longer honoring the benefit of pre-existing conditions.  Three ways it is important for the American people to know how they are affected: by Medicare withering on the vine, two trillion dollars being cut from Medicare and Medicaid — we just observed the 53 birthday — and the cost of prescription drugs and the President’s complicity in the increasing costs for families.

What we are promising are that Democrats will lower health care costs — bigger paychecks for people as a part of that plan.   Protecting Medicare, Medicaid and those with pre-existing conditions, those three things.  Financial security as well as health security.

I want to thank Brenda Storey for the hospitality here to us today, but that the Mission Health Center extends to people every single day, with dignity and respect, and appropriate care and health care professionals and the culture and the language.  With that, I thank you.

[Applause]

Jonah will be happy to take any questions you may have.

[Laughter]

Any questions?

Q:  Your compatriots in the Senate came out with the Congressional Review Act today.  Do you have any comment on that?

Leader Pelosi.  For everyone, you can describe?

Q:  Basically, it would rescind the rule on the pre-existing and they would need a majority in the Senate to do that.  Schumer and all that came out today to say that.  I was just curious if you had any additional comment on that?

Leader Pelosi.  There is something in the Congress called the Congressional Review Act and it is something that enables Congress, by super-majority, to – they had to have 60 in the Senate?  So, whatever it is, a simple majority in the House to eliminate a regulation or a provision in the law.  It can be very, very damaging and it has been in terms of clean air, health care, water – every subject you can name.  They can take it away, what they call regulations, which really are protections for the American people.  So, any attempt, by anyone to lift those protections is an assault on every family in our country because every family is one phone call away, one diagnosis, one accident away from needing the pre-existing condition benefit and an attempt to strengthen it is a blessing so we have to watch carefully to see what has happened.

Any other questions?

Okay, with that, thank you very much for joining us to see the great work that Brenda Storey does here and also to thank our VIPs and special speakers today, Jonah Pliner and Marylou Ponce.  Thank you so much.

 

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