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Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Well, one of the things that I think is really refreshing about what is going on today, and ever since the legislation was finally passed, is that there is real focus on how this bill is going to help real people. No more the myths of if we do this, this is going to happen, all these mythical things I heard you talking about, the death panels, et cetera. But now we are having a real conversation. And Americans, including our seniors, are looking at, what does this bill really mean to me?
Let me give you an example of the Ninth Congressional District in Illinois. We know that 101,000 beneficiaries of Medicare are going to be helped by this; that Medicare will be made stronger, including beginning the closing of the doughnut hole. That gap in coverage that can be $36,000 out of pocket, that is going to go away in this bill over time, and it is going to start right away.
So what we are going to find out now, and I actually saw a poll today that the majority of Americans now--it's changing really quickly--say that they are either enthusiastic or pleased that this legislation passed, beating out those who say that they didn't want it or that they are afraid of it. And so I am so glad that we are now at this phase of the discussion.
This day is really one I have dreamed about my whole adult life and what I have been working for for a while as executive director of the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens for 5 year. So we have been talking about this for a long time.
Mr. GARAMENDI. It's a happy day for America. It is a really happy day for America. We are on our way to solving one of this Nation's great problems.
Earlier today I was in the East Room of the White House with both of you. Sitting next to me is an extraordinary Representative from really an important part of this Nation, a part of the Nation that has been really harmed by the economy. And we were talking about the way in which this legislation as the President was signing it would affect her district. So let me call upon the gentlewoman from western Pennsylvania, Kathleen Dahlkemper.
Mrs. DAHLKEMPER. Thank you so much for yielding to me.
Pennsylvania has the second largest population of seniors in the country, and this legislation will go a long way to securing our seniors' future in terms of the benefits that they get from Medicare.
I am so proud to be here tonight talking about this, proud to be one of those who voted ``yes'' and helped to make this historic legislation move forward. It was certainly a great day on Sunday, and it was even a greater day today when the President signed it into law.
I think about the fact that as I campaigned just 1 1/2 years ago, so many seniors told me about the financial problems they were having with this doughnut hole issue, and they would cut their pill in half or they would only take it every other day.
I was with my father-in-law one day driving somewhere and I asked him how his diabetes was. He has got adult onset diabetes. He said, Well, you know I got into that doughnut hole. So one of those pills, I am only taking it every other day. And he was basically self-medicating. He was determining what he could afford, not what the doctor ordered. And I know that this is a problem for so many seniors.
So we are going to close that doughnut hole, which I think is one of the great benefits, and we are also going to allow our seniors to get more preventative care without the copays, and going and getting taken care of themselves so they can get a better quality of life and enjoy those years that we hope to enjoy in our lives.
Mr. GARAMENDI. Actually, in 2011, just 10 months from now, the Medicare program will provide wellness and preventative care, and it will not cost the seniors anything. It will be part of the program, 100 percent paid for by the Medicare program.
Your father-in-law, is it, that was cutting his diabetic medicine in half so that he could make it through?
Mrs. DAHLKEMPER. He was doing that. He was trying to spread it out so he could extend his prescription, his filled prescription longer, and reduce the out-of-pocket cost that he was experiencing.
Mr. GARAMENDI. One thing that would clearly help him, beginning January 1, we backdate this to January 1, 2010, there will be a $250 rebate, a check written to him. If he shows he spent $250 on that medication, he'll get a check from the Federal Government to reimburse him for that $250 that he spent once he got to the doughnut hole. That's an immediate benefit.
You've got to be sure to give him a phone call as soon as you leave.
Mrs. DAHLKEMPER. I will. He's just coming back from a trip, something all seniors should be able to do, go enjoy themselves and not have to spend everything that they have on making sure that they have their prescriptions.
I want to thank the gentleman for hosting tonight. I'm just pleased to be here and pleased to see this legislation come forward.
Mr. GARAMENDI. I know that you have another responsibility that you will soon take, and that is to preside over the House. Thank you so very much for joining us for these few minutes before you take the chair and make sure that we keep our time.
Mrs. DAHLKEMPER. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. GARAMENDI. Thank you.
I notice that a woman that I have had the pleasure of working with now for--well, neither of us will say the total number of years, but she became the chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee in California when I moved out of that job to become majority leader in the California senate.
I would like to now introduce and yield to Congresswoman Diane Watson, and then if the gentlewoman from Illinois could follow.
Ms. WATSON. Thank you so much, Congressman John Garamendi, one of our newer Members; however, old in leadership, ability, ability to conceptualize and he saw a spot for himself in this debate.
And I want to say, we are glowing in the aura of being in the White House and seeing the President, Barack Obama, sign with 19 different pens what is going to change the quality of health care through insurance for this whole country, for Americans.
You're only as strong as your weakest link. I told them earlier today that the people at home who have doubts about what we did and what we're doing and don't really understand; the opposition always showed all of these hundreds and thousands of pages and people became confused and they really were misled. But think of somebody on a high wire and he's got a pole in his hands, or she has a pole in her hands, and she slips, or he slips, and underneath there is a safety net. If that safety net has a hole in it, what's going to happen? People are going to fall through and the end will be there. We in government are the safety net. We have to look larger. They say all politics is local, but we have to look at what we had signed into law by the President, what it will really do.
And I just want to say, that mother who has a son 9 years old and has chronic asthma and had no way of getting him covered can now see that he is covered and get the kind of care that he needs.
This is a true story. It happened in Sacramento. There was a young mother, a beautician. She worked, paid her rent in her little booth where she did hair. She had to quit and go on welfare so her son could be covered because he was in the hospital at least three times a week.
Mr. GARAMENDI. He had a preexisting condition.
Ms. WATSON. He had a preexisting condition and she could not get insurance coverage. That will be taken care of.
Mr. GARAMENDI. I yield to the gentlelady from Illinois.
Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Unfortunately, Representative Garamendi, I am going to have to leave, too. But before I did, I wanted to focus on what happens this year for people. The physical rollout of the bill takes a number of years to happen. But if people are wondering what's going to happen this year, I wanted to just give some examples.
Starting as soon as the bill is passed, tax credits to small businesses to make employee coverage more affordable. Those tax cuts of up to 35 percent of premiums will be immediately available to companies, to small businesses that choose to offer coverage to their employees. Of course, in 2014 the tax credits will cover 50 percent of the premiums. Right away. We talked about the $250 rebate to Medicare recipients. And also there's going to be a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs for people who are in that doughnut hole, in that gap in coverage; and the doughnut hole being closed completely by 2020.
Ninety days later, immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a preexisting condition through a temporary high-risk pool. We put billions of dollars into a high-risk pool for people. Six months after enactment, that's when health plans are prohibited from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions.
Mr. GARAMENDI. That's what Congresswoman Watson was talking about, that young child, the mother. That child has immediate access--6 months from now. Let's count it up. That would be September. She would be able to get health care coverage for her child.
Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Also in 6 months, and this is going to affect 52,000 young adults in my district alone, to require health plans to allow young people up to their 26th birthday to remain on their parents' insurance policies. At their parents' choice, of course. So that's pretty good for our young people.
Mr. GARAMENDI. That's downright exciting.
Now I've got a 24-year-old daughter. About 11
months ago, she went off our policy. She couldn't get insurance, even though she had been with the same insurance company for 23 years, and suddenly she was uninsurable because she was a woman in a childbearing age. Those days are over. She can come back on my policy. We've got 52,000 people in my district, the same young population, that will be able to stay with their parents. Please continue.
Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. That's a story in itself, why your daughter after having been insured with the same company for 23 years, and now couldn't pay for her own insurance and they would raise her rates.
Mr. GARAMENDI. It wasn't a matter of paying. She couldn't get insurance.
Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Oh, they excluded her. Unbelievable.
Mr. GARAMENDI. Because she had that preexisting condition called ``female.''
Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Now in 6 months from the enactment of this bill, from today, health plans won't be able to drop people when they get sick. And Illinois happens to be number one in what is called rescission, and that's just canceling people because they go back digging through their records and say, uh-uh, we're going to drop your policy.
Six months from today, health plans will not be able to have lifetime caps on coverage. And people who have chronic illness, they can reach those caps in a very few months if they get sick. And in 6 months tightly restrict new plans' use of annual limits to ensure access to needed care. These tight restrictions will be defined by Health and Human Services. So that's a good thing. We're going to begin to regulate what they do.
And finally, beginning in January of next year, that's when the seniors don't have to pay any copayments for preventive services; exempts preventive services from any deductibles under Medicare. What a great thing that is to keep older adults healthy in this country.
And also in January, what we call a medical loss ratio, that's kind of a fancy term for saying that insurance plans will have to spend 80 percent of premium dollars on medical services for a small group market, or individual market, and 85 percent in a large group market. Eighty-five cents on every dollar is going to have to go to health care, not to bonuses or stock options for executives, but for health care. This is a great bill.
Mr. GARAMENDI. What year does that kick in?
Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. January 1, 2011.
Mr. GARAMENDI. So it's not going to be about profit? It's going to be about actually providing benefits to people?
Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Exactly. They're going to have to pay, for individual market, 80 cents on the dollar has to go to health care for a small group, and then 85 percent for large groups.
Mr. GARAMENDI. So those companies in Illinois and California that are denying claims to fatten their bottom line are going to have to actually provide medical services and pay for it. Oh, my goodness. What a shock.
Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. That's right. But they'll be prohibited 6 months from now from dropping people off their policies. Those days are over.
In some ways, we're saying to the American people now who have been staying up at night like those parents worrying about their children, Sleep well. We're actually going to solve those problems and lift this tremendous weight off the shoulders of Americans.
Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you, Congresswoman Watson. I appreciate it.
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