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Ms. CHU. Mr. Speaker, the health care reform bill is crucial to Californians across the State, but it will especially benefit my constituents in the San Gabriel Valley and East L.A. who struggle every day to survive without proper health care.
The percentage of California residents that lack health insurance is about 19 percent, one of the highest rates in the country. But fully one-third or 33 percent of the residents of my district are uninsured. This is a situation that is simply unacceptable for a State and the Nation that prides itself on being the most advanced and wealthiest in the world.
But this bill will provide everybody stability, security, and peace of mind. It will provide peace of mind for the low income and uninsured. People like Patricia, who is age 64 and had insurance until she retired. Then she was left without insurance and she got very sick. Her kidneys failed, and she was too young for Medicare. It was not until she was in the intensive care unit and dying of renal failure that she was able to qualify for early Medicare benefits. This situation will not occur with health care reform. With health care reform, people like Patricia will be able to buy health care and there will be credits provided to her so that she can afford it.
Health care reform will be good for people who don't have coverage right now, people like Scott, who had insurance all his life but changed jobs, became self-employed, and wanted to buy insurance but found, to his shock, that he was denied because of a preexisting condition. He had asthma as a child. Health care reform will help him because he will not be denied because of a preexisting condition. He will not have to worry about being dropped from insurance because of a serious illness. He will not have to worry about copays and deductibles that will cause him to go into bankruptcy. He will not have to worry about a lifetime cap on medical care in case of a very serious illness. In fact, with passage of health care reform, never again will American families face bankruptcy because of unexpected health care costs, as they will not have to pay more than $10,000 a year for out-of-pocket health care costs.
And this bill will give peace of mind to small businesses. Small businesses and their workers are particularly impacted by the high cost of health care in this country. They account for the largest share of the uninsured. Small businesses pay higher rates today because they do not have the advantage of large numbers of employees over which to spread insurance risk.
Even if a small employer currently has healthy workers, the small business faces the prospect of dramatically increased future premiums if any employee actually needs to use the coverage, such as one small company in my district, an insurance company with five workers. One worker had a baby that was premature, causing very, very expensive care. The next year, the insurance company drastically raised their rates, and now the business has to make a decision about whether to continue covering its employees. But this bill will allow small businesses to afford health care coverage and reduce health care costs through tax credits that are available to the smallest of employers.
It is clear that the status quo is unacceptable. If we do nothing, health care costs will continue to rise, quality of care will deteriorate, and every American will risk losing their health care. The growing cost of health care is one of the biggest drains on our economy. If we are to bring our Nation back to fiscal health, we must have real, fundamental health care reform.
This bill is good for my district, and it's good for California, where hospitals are overwhelmed with uninsured patients, where thousands are without jobs and without insurance and where the State doesn't have the financial resources to pick up the slack. Not in six decades have we been this close to achieving this most crucial task of reforming our health care system. Let me be clear, we would be derelict in our duty to the American people if we let this opportunity go to waste.
Ms. WATSON. Congresswoman Chu, do you find in your districts the demographics that have changed in the last few years, that people in your district are going into the health care system more acutely ill?
Ms. CHU. Yes. They wait until the last minute, such as the person I talked about, Patricia, who was age 64 and had insurance. But during this 10-year period between the time she retired at age 55 and age 65, where she would have qualified for Medicare, she had no alternative. She had kidney failure, but she waited until the last minute, and she was almost dying before she got care. This is a situation that people in California are faced with in California every day.
Ms. WATSON. You know, California being the largest State in the Union and being the first State to become a majority of minorities, people come over the Pacific as well as over the border. Many people think that many of our immigrants come from over the border. But those who come from across the Pacific have many different ways of receiving health care, more traditional and so on. So they try to treat at home. Then when they come into the system, they are more acutely ill. So I have been concerned about the formulary and having brand names on the formulary to treat these odd kinds of conditions, rather than always pushing generics.
So I understand that the bill that will come in front of us very soon will allow for not only generics but these brands to be prescribed by their physicians. I know that in my district, the 33rd Congressional District in Los Angeles--I include Hollywood, Hollywood Hills and so on--there was a young man at an event taking pictures, and when I finished explaining the bill, H.R. 3200 at that time, he sat down beside me, and he said, Thank goodness the government is looking at health care reform because I require a medication--and get this--that costs $74,000 a month. I thought I didn't hear him correctly. I said, Are you talking about $74,000? He said, Yes. I said, Well, what is this condition? He said, I have a condition that I was born with that starts the skeletal system, the muscular system and vital organs to deteriorate. My copayment is over $696 a month. Thank goodness for the government helping me live.
Helping people live is so important, and I know that you have heard from people in your district, much like the ones I have described.
Ms. CHU. Yes, I have heard many stories like that. In fact, I had a town hall for people who just spoke Spanish. I had a town hall for people who just spoke Chinese. I will never forget one woman who was speaking Spanish, talking about the fact that she was covered but that her son, age 21, was not covered and, in fact, when she tried to get coverage for him, he was denied because of a preexisting condition. So they were forced to go down to Tijuana every month to just buy medication out of pocket.
But with this health care bill, insurance companies can cover children of parents up until the age of their 27th birthday. So young adults like that will be covered with this health care reform bill.
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