Monday, March 22, 2010

Statements on Health Care Bill

A variety of statements on health care reform, from the inbox:

President Obama:

Good evening, everybody. Tonight, after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying, and a year of sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared that America’s workers and America's families and America's small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here, in this country, neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.

Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn't give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges. We proved that this government -- a government of the people and by the people -- still works for the people.

I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality. And I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote. I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn for their commitment to getting the job done. I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, and my wonderful Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, for their fantastic work on this issue. I want to thank the many staffers in Congress, and my own incredible staff in the White House, who have worked tirelessly over the past year with Americans of all walks of life to forge a reform package finally worthy of the people we were sent here to serve.

Today’s vote answers the dreams of so many who have fought for this reform. To every unsung American who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an e-mail hoping your voice would be heard -- it has been heard tonight. To the untold numbers who knocked on doors and made phone calls, who organized and mobilized out of a firm conviction that change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up -- let me reaffirm that conviction: This moment is possible because of you.

Most importantly, today’s vote answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a health care system that works for insurance companies, but not for ordinary people. For most Americans, this debate has never been about abstractions, the fight between right and left, Republican and Democrat -- it’s always been about something far more personal. It’s about every American who knows the shock of opening an envelope to see that their premiums just shot up again when times are already tough enough. It’s about every parent who knows the desperation of trying to cover a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again and again. It’s about every small business owner forced to choose between insuring employees and staying open for business. They are why we committed ourselves to this cause.

Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party -- it's a victory for them. It's a victory for the American people. And it's a victory for common sense.

Now, it probably goes without saying that tonight’s vote will give rise to a frenzy of instant analysis. There will be tallies of Washington winners and losers, predictions about what it means for Democrats and Republicans, for my poll numbers, for my administration. But long after the debate fades away and the prognostication fades away and the dust settles, what will remain standing is not the government-run system some feared, or the status quo that serves the interests of the insurance industry, but a health care system that incorporates ideas from both parties -- a system that works better for the American people.

If you have health insurance, this reform just gave you more control by reining in the worst excesses and abuses of the insurance industry with some of the toughest consumer protections this country has ever known -- so that you are actually getting what you pay for.

If you don’t have insurance, this reform gives you a chance to be a part of a big purchasing pool that will give you choice and competition and cheaper prices for insurance. And it includes the largest health care tax cut for working families and small businesses in history -- so that if you lose your job and you change jobs, start that new business, you’ll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable care and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.

This reform is the right thing to do for our seniors. It makes Medicare stronger and more solvent, extending its life by almost a decade. And it’s the right thing to do for our future. It will reduce our deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade, and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that.

So this isn’t radical reform. But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.

Now as momentous as this day is, it's not the end of this journey. On Tuesday, the Senate will take up revisions to this legislation that the House has embraced, and these are revisions that have strengthened this law and removed provisions that had no place in it. Some have predicted another siege of parliamentary maneuvering in order to delay adoption of these improvements. I hope that’s not the case. It’s time to bring this debate to a close and begin the hard work of implementing this reform properly on behalf of the American people. This year, and in years to come, we have a solemn responsibility to do it right.

Nor does this day represent the end of the work that faces our country. The work of revitalizing our economy goes on. The work of promoting private sector job creation goes on. The work of putting American families’ dreams back within reach goes on. And we march on, with renewed confidence, energized by this victory on their behalf.

In the end, what this day represents is another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American Dream. Tonight, we answered the call of history as so many generations of Americans have before us. When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge -- we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility -- we embraced it. We did not fear our future -- we shaped it.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Joe Sestak
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Joe Sestak released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed comprehensive health care reform -- HR 3950 -- by a vote of 219 to 212, and the package of reconciliation improvements -- HR 4872 -- by a vote of 220 to 211.

"The health care reform we passed today will put an end to insurance industry abuses, extend lifesaving care to millions, strengthen Medicare, and cut the national deficit.

"Health care is the most personal of any public policy. I know it is for me. I decided to run for Congress, after my 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer, with the conviction that all Americans should have access to the lifesaving medical care I was able to provide my family through my U.S. military health care. Today, we've taken a major step toward making that a reality.

"Nothing is more intimate or important than our health and the care we receive from our doctors. This reform will cut out the insurance bureaucrats and put life-and-death decisions back where they belong: in the hands of families and doctors. No longer will insurance companies be able to turn record profits by denying care to those who need it most, cutting your coverage the moment you get sick, or hiking your premiums year after year.

"If we had followed the Republican plan of inaction, in 30 years health care costs would have swallowed up a third our economy, driven small companies out of business, and bankrupted untold numbers of American families. By taking on one of the biggest challenges facing our nation, we're going to cut more than $130 billion from the deficit this decade, and another $1.2 trillion the next. And no longer will you have to pay for the uninsured out of your own pocket. This is a first, major step in tackling the deficit and creating a healthy country and a healthy economy.

"Today, we showed that good policy for the American people can triumph over Washington politics."

Allyson Schwartz:
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz issued the following statement today after voting for legislation to reform health care so that it works better for patients and is more affordable for all Americans. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, the Congresswoman played a significant role in drafting this important measure.

Specifically, Schwartz has championed provisions to prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, to expand and improve access to primary care, to ensure young adults can stay on their parent’s coverage until age 26, and to eliminate co-payments for preventive care services for seniors.

“Today Democrats in Congress took action to bring down health care costs for middle income families, help small businesses afford coverage for their employees, improve coverage for seniors, reign in wasteful spending, and provide access to 32 million uninsured Americans—all while reducing the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 20 years.

“Health care reform will strengthen Medicare by ensuring better quality of care to our seniors and greater value for our public dollars. We close the gap in prescription drug coverage, known as the donut hole, which has been so costly for America's seniors. Thanks to this bill, seniors will no longer have to pay a co-pay for primary care and preventive services.

“Starting right away, insurance companies will be prohibited from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions, from placing annual or lifetime caps on coverage, and from dropping people from coverage when they get sick.

“Health care reform represents the largest deficit reduction measure in nearly a generation. It will contain the rising cost of health coverage and improve health benefits for Americans who currently have insurance.

“It is time to put American families and small business owners—not insurance companies—in control of their own health care. It is time to hold insurance companies accountable to keep premiums down and prevent denial of care and coverage. It is time to ensure that millions of Americans have access to affordable health insurance choices.”

Paul Kanjorski:
Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) provided the following statement explaining how he will vote for the health care reform bill. The bill will be voted on later this evening.

“Today I will vote for legislation designed to improve the affordability and accessibility of health care. Americans already spend more on health care than the people of any other nation. If we take no action, health care costs are expected to double over the next ten years, just as they have over the last ten years. It is not the bill I would have written if it were up to me alone, but it is the best we can do at this time.

“This was one of the most difficult votes I have ever cast, primarily because there is a great deal of confusion about what this bill will do. Senior citizens do not have to worry about losing any benefits because of this bill. In fact, their coverage for prescription drug costs and preventative care will improve. No federal funding will be used to fund abortion. The bill does not empower the federal government to take over health care. If people are happy with the insurance they have, nothing needs to change.

“However, this bill allows the American people to choose the health insurance plan that best fits individual and family needs by creating a marketplace of insurance plans. For too long, private insurance companies have monopolized how health insurance operates. This bill attempts to rein in those private insurers by prohibiting their most egregious abuses: denying coverage for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, imposing a lifetime cap on medical care, and limiting the ability of individuals to change jobs without the fear of losing insurance coverage. It will also enable young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.

“I thank the many Northeastern Pennsylvanians who have shared their thoughts with me on this important legislation over the past few months. When you are sick, the last thing you should have to worry about is how to pay the bills. Insurance is supposed to relieve this worry, but instead the current system has made that worry worse. Today, we are working to reverse this course.”

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