On Monday, October 26, 2009, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz hosted a roundtable discussion with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and leaders from the senior community in South Florida. The discussion took place at the Sunrise Senior Center in Sunrise, FL. The following remarks were given by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz at a press conference upon the conclusion of the roundtable:
"Three years ago, then-Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi and I stood right here in this room and promised seniors that when Democrats took back the Congress, we would close the Medicare Part D donut hole.
I am honored to return, with now-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and be able to say that when we pass health insurance reform this year we will begin to immediately close the donut hole.
"There has been a great deal of misinformation, no, let's call it as it is
"There has been intensive fear-mongering directed at America's Seniors.
"There have been lies told and repeated, simply to scare seniors into thinking that health insurance reform was bad for them.
"Let me tell you something, the seniors I talk to aren't buying it.
"Seniors understand that the same things were said by some of the very same organizations when they opposed the creation of Medicare.
"Seniors know how well Medicare works, how they don't have to worry about finding coverage, being denied coverage, or being told they have a pre-existing condition.
"The American dream is that after working for most of your life, after providing for your family, you can afford to retire to a nice community like Sunrise here in Florida.
"But lack of health insurance coverage is making this less and less a reality for millions of older Americans.
"In fact, AARP reported that adults ages 50 to 64 were the fastest-growing group of uninsured. There was a 36 percent increase in the number of older Americans without insurance from 2000 to 2009. There were 7.1 million uninsured people aged 50 to 64 in 2007.
"Insurance companies are also more likely to deny older Americans coverage in the individual market on the basis of "pre-existing conditions" because seniors are more likely to have at least one chronic condition.
"Denial rates increase with age; according to insurance industry statistics, insurance companies in 2006 denied coverage to 17.4 percent of individuals age 50 to 54 who sought coverage in the individual market; 22.3 percent of individuals age 55 to 59; and 28.7 percent of individuals age 60 to 64.
"How can we allow a system where more than 7 million Americans over 55, many who have worked their entire life, now find themselves without health insurance?
"They certainly can't afford to retire to Florida when they're worried about how to afford to pay for their medical bills.
"The fear-mongering is nothing more than lies, lies that hurt millions of working age Americans and millions of older Americans.
"The health insurance reform we are proposing will help seniors, help older Americans. It helps America.
"Right here in my Congressional District, there are 135,000 uninsured people out of 600,000 people. This isn't some remote problem, that figure is taken straight from our neighborhoods.
"That means that 1 of every 6 people you see each day in my district alone, doesn't have health insurance.
"This simply cannot continue to occur.
"I now turn it over to Speaker Pelosi, who can talk further about the health insurance reform we are working on, and how it helps protect and restore the promise of Medicare for our seniors."