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Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this historic health care reform legislation.
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Two years ago, during a telephone townhall with my constituents, one of my neighbors in Burbank told me that her young daughter had become ill. Our children played together in preschool, and they lived just a few doors down. When her daughter became sick, they were able to get her the health care she needed through a program called Healthy Families. She was now, thankfully, all better.
But now, my constituent told me, she herself was ill. She and her husband were both self-employed and could not afford health insurance, and she was scared to death to get her illness treated at the emergency room. Her question to me that night was: ``Is there any hope for families like mine?''
The answer tonight is ``yes.'' There is now hope for millions of self-employed Americans who cannot afford health care, and millions more who are small business people struggling to provide health care for themselves and their employees. And there is hope for millions of others who have pre-existing conditions and cannot obtain health insurance. And for millions of seniors who have fallen through the donut hole in their prescription drug coverage. Because tonight's bill will address the needs of each and every one of these Americans who are struggling to afford the coverage they have, or find health insurance when they are without.
Our health insurance system is intrinsically linked to our Nation's and California's economic recovery. There are now more than 30 million American citizens who do not have health insurance coverage, and every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In fact, Californians are more likely to be uninsured than most Americans--over 7 million Californians are uninsured this year.
Millions of Americans now receive their care at the emergency room, and millions more must make the difficult choice of whether to pay their medical bills or pay their mortgage because they cannot afford to do both; two-thirds of all bankruptcies and half of all foreclosures are a result of a health care crisis in the family.
This recession has highlighted wide and growing gaps in our health care system. Families lose their insurance coverage when a parent in the household becomes unemployed, and too many parents without employment are falling through those widening cracks--unable to afford COBRA, ineligible for public coverage, and precluded by high premiums and/or pre-existing conditions from obtaining private insurance.
Collectively, as a Nation, we spend almost twice as much per person on health care as any other country, or about 17 percent of our gross domestic product, and this number is growing every year far faster than inflation.
Tonight, I'm voting to pass legislation that will substantially reform the health insurance industry and practices, extend quality coverage to millions of Americans, and hold down national, public, and private health care costs. This bill will help provide stable coverage that cannot be taken away and won't be lost when you change jobs, and will provide additional insurance choices in an invigorated and competitive marketplace.
In my district alone, this bill will provide tax credits and financial assistance to over 135,000 families and 15,000 small business owners in order to help them afford coverage, and extend coverage to 80,000 uninsured residents. This bill will close the ``donut hole'' for 94,000 seniors, and extend the life of Medicare. Further, we act tonight in a fiscally responsible manner, reducing the deficit by over $1.3 trillion during the next two decades.
Tonight, we make it illegal to deny health coverage to the 15,000 constituents in my district with pre-existing conditions. We ensure that the costs of health care won't threaten their family's finances, that their doctor is paid for making them well and not ordering unnecessary tests, and that their health care premiums are spent on actual care, not paying for paperwork and red tape.
I have two young children, and I cannot imagine the dread that a parent must feel who has a sick child for whom they cannot provide care. That is an agony no parent should ever know. Not here. Not in America. I have had one steady guide through my years in Congress, and it is my two children. When they are old enough to know of my work in Congress, I want them to be proud of what their father did when he had a chance to serve this great Nation. And I believe they will be proud of me for casting my vote to provide health care for millions who do not have it, just as I am proud of the generation who went before and provided health care for millions of seniors when they had the courage to pass Medicare.
I strongly believe that access to affordable, quality, stable health care is the key to a productive work force, small business innovation, and the economic as well as health security of our families and Nation, and I'm proud to vote for this bill.
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