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Ms. FUDGE. I thank you.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to again thank my friend and colleague, Representative SHEILA JACKSON LEE, for her insight and for her knowledge, obviously, of the bill as well as for her ability to connect with the American people.
I thank you for joining me this evening. It is always my pleasure.
Mr. Speaker, again tonight, we are going to focus on the benefits of the health care reform that Americans are experiencing today. When it comes to health care reform, what is now called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I truly believe history will show those of us who supported it did the right thing, and we are already seeing evidence that our courageous act is positively impacting Americans.
I am extremely proud that Congress took the task of closing the doughnut hole for seniors. The doughnut hole has, in many instances, become the black hole because, for some seniors, the uncovered prescription costs never end. Fortunately, that is about to change. Beginning in 2011, seniors in the doughnut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs. By 2020, the doughnut hole will be completely closed. I know that many seniors cannot afford to wait. To ease the burden, Medicare recipients will automatically receive onetime $250 checks to help them with prescription costs. Some of those checks have already been received. I know that this is a modest step, but it is the beginning of our commitment to improve Medicare for our seniors, and I am very happy to see that it has started helping some of the 97,000 seniors in my congressional district who receive Medicare. Making prescription drugs more affordable for seniors is only one of the many benefits for seniors included in the recently enacted health reform law.
Other benefits for seniors include free preventative care services. So, if you need screenings or if you want your physical examinations, all of those things become free, and all of those things become free under Medicare beginning in 2011. Extended funding for Medicare is going to be there through 2029. There is going to be increased access to doctors, and we will have expanded home- and community-based services to keep seniors in their homes instead of in nursing homes.
I am also pleased that Americans without insurance and those who have been denied insurance due to preexisting conditions can now sign up for immediate access to health coverage. This will be done through a temporary high-risk pool until the exchanges are up and running in 2014. This will be a great relief for Americans.
Small businesses are receiving tax credits to assist in providing employees with health coverage. As a result of the health care reform, the Federal Government now offers tax credits of up to 35 percent of the employer premium contributions for those small businesses that choose to offer coverage. Beginning in 2014, those tax credits will increase to up to 50 percent of employer premium contributions.
Beginning in September of this year, of 2010, just in time for the start of the fall semester for college, young adults will be able to remain on their parents' insurance plans until age 26. The best part is any young adult without employer-provided insurance will be able to remain on their parents' insurance plans up to age 26. The young adults need not be enrolled in college. He or she does not even have to live in the same State as his or her parents. Parents only need to contact their health insurance companies to enroll their children.
Also, our young adults, including former foster youth, will be able to pursue their educations and start their careers without the fear of unexpected medical
bills hanging over their heads. Finally, these young people will have access to medical care without fear that they will have bills they cannot afford.
Further, Mr. Speaker, in September, we will also respond to the needs of younger children. Beginning on September 23, the unfair and discriminatory practice of denying children health care due to preexisting conditions will end. No more will insurance companies determine that children who face medical hardship don't deserve affordable health care. No more will private industry decide which children deserve care and which do not.
I held multiple town halls on health care prior to the passage of the bill, and I was moved by the many stories I heard. One in particular came from a father who was barely able to afford health care for his son who suffers from sickle cell anemia. The insurance company found sickle cell to be a preexisting condition, and as such, the only insurance he could find was astronomical in price. He could not afford it. I am proud that this Congress remedied the situation for this father, who only wanted to give his son a shot at a healthy future.
On September 23, insurance companies will be banned from capping the amount of money they will spend on a patient's care. One of my constituents, whom I will call Mary, is especially excited about this particular provision. Mary has been paying for health care insurance, as well as for catastrophic health care insurance, for many years. She does this in case she hits the lifetime limit. She saw her own brother, who has brain cancer and no health insurance, inundated with medical bills well in excess of $60,000. She lived in fear that that might happen to her, so she wanted to be sure that she was prepared. Just out of fear that an unpreventable or unexpected illness will force her into financial hardship, she prefers to be safe rather than sorry. Mary has maintained a policy with a $25,000 deductible--yes, I did say a $25,000 deductible--just to be sure she doesn't fall into medical bankruptcy. For her, the countdown for September 23 can't come soon enough.
Beginning on October 1, there will be increases in funding for community health centers to allow for nearly doubling the number of patients served over the next 5 years. For those in Ohio, you can find a community health center near you just by calling 211. There will be scholarships for medical students. There will be new scholarships for loan repayment programs that will be available for doctors, for nurses and for other health care providers who work in underserved areas. To those listening in the 11th District at home, to find a scholarship, visit National Health Service Corps' Web site at nhsc.hrsa.gov. Again, that is nhsc.hrsa.gov.
Next year, in 2011, a public option for long-term care insurance will become available. Further, in 2011, insurance companies will be required to spend 80 to 85 percent of all premiums received on patient care or provide a rebate to customers. Insurance companies can no longer just take inordinate sums of money and put them in their pocket and have nothing to show for the care that they have given to the people who have paid these premiums. Now they must spend at least 80 to 85 percent on care. In 2011, Medicare patients will receive free preventive care.
As President Obama rightly noted, passing health care reform is just the first step. Implementing it in an effective, accountable way is now the challenge and our goal. I am honored and privileged to have voted for health care. We need to remind ourselves reform was necessary and why we fought so hard to insure all Americans.
I want to share the story of a constituent who was diagnosed with cancer when he was almost 15 years of age. This young man--we will call him Steve--should have been worrying about getting his driver's license or what he was going to wear to the homecoming dance or excelling in school. Instead, he was concerned for his very basic survival. Steve and his family were told he only had a 15 percent chance of living because he had a softball-sized tumor which had grown in his ribcage and into his spine. Luckily for Steve, he lived in the Cleveland area. He was being treated at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, which is one of the leading pediatric hospitals in the world. Rainbow Babies is a world-class facility and cares for patients around the world.
The doctors, nurses, and support staff at Rainbow worked miracles on this young man. He had intense chemotherapy and spine surgery, which shrank and ultimately removed the tumor. His bones, which had been eaten away by the aggressive cancer, were replaced with titanium rods. And he started on an 8-week path to learn how to walk again, a remarkable feat which, at 15 years of age, is something that few would have the emotional and mental maturity to handle, let alone the physical capacity.
Despite the expert care, continuing radiation, and chemotherapy, it was not enough to prevent the relapse that occurs to a majority of patients diagnosed with this cancer. Within 4 months, Steve had to repeat the process of removing yet another tumor. The tumor was removed by Rainbow Babies. Thankfully, this particular type of cancer did not return.
Steve would go on with his studies and graduate high school and stay close to home and go to John Carroll University in University Heights. His life was starting to get back on track, especially for an 18-year-old. He was still worrying about school but adjusting to college life and figuring out what it means to be a young adult. But just as Steve had started his new life, he received devastating news. He was diagnosed with a new and different type of cancer called acute myeloid leukemia, or AML. AML is a blood cancer that required him to have a bone marrow transplant. An anonymous donor and doctors at Rainbow saw him through a successful operation. And thanks to them and the resilience of his family, Steve is now a robust young adult, physically and mentally ready for the challenges that come to college students.
The story of Steve's resilience and his doctors' skill and persistence is a heroic one that can serve as inspiration to all of us. But what makes this story most notable was that much of it was done without the basic protections that should be guaranteed to minors by health insurance.
Steve had exceeded his lifetime insurance limit during his third bout of cancer and, as a full-time student, he was ineligible for his parents' insurance. Steve sums up his own feelings about health care reform with this quote. He says, If you voted for the health reform bill, thank you, because for other kids, teens, and young adults like me, you solved two problems this year: one to prevent insurance companies from having lifetime maximums, and allowing young adults and teens to remain on their parents' coverage until age 26, even if they are not enrolled in postsecondary education.
A story like this, Mr. Speaker, will never need to be repeated again in this Chamber, and that's because of health care reform. I am, again, proud to have been one of the persons who voted in this House to save the lives of so many.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back.