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Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Speaker, Democrats' top priority is creating jobs. We want to work with Republicans to achieve this goal, but instead of focusing on jobs and growing the economy the new leadership has decided to start by debating H.R. 2, which will repeal patients' rights, put insurance companies back in charge, and add to the deficit.

Yesterday, the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee held the only hearing the new Congress will have on this bill. We heard from families from Maine to Florida, from Rhode Island to Missouri, real people, real stories. Freedom was a common thread in their stories. Because of health care reform, these families are free from worrying about being denied coverage because of a preexisting condition and free from worrying about escalating medical debt because of lifetime caps on their insurance plans. These families now have a sense of security and peace of mind.

For over 37 years, thanks to Hawaii's landmark Prepaid Health Care Act, our families have largely been protected from some of the most unfair insurance company practices, but health care reform is still helping thousands of families and small businesses across my State. A mother in Kailua, Hawaii contacted me to tell me that she can now add her 21-year-old son and 24-year-old daughter to her work-sponsored insurance plan. This mom used to pay $900 a month for just her daughter's health insurance and prescription drugs. Now she pays $300 a month to cover both of her children under her company's plan. This family used to spend $10,800 a year for health care for one child; now they spend $3,600 a year for health care for the entire family.

I recently heard from a senior in Waimea on Hawaii Island who referred to her $250 Medicare doughnut hole rebate check as a blessing in these tough economic times. Let's be clear: The Patients' Rights Repeal Act will hurt, not help, middle class families and small businesses in Hawaii and across our Nation.

I urge my colleagues to join me in voting against H.R. 2.

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Mr. Speaker, listen to Stacie Ritter's story. Stacie is the mother of twin daughters, Hannah and Madeline, now 11, who were diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 4. Stacie has always worried about her daughters' health and having health insurance to cover the stem cell transplants and other cancer treatments. Because of health care reform, Stacie doesn't have to worry about the twins being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. This repeal bill will allow insurance companies to deny Hannah and Madeline health insurance for the rest of their lives. The 19.4 million children in our country with pre-existing conditions would face the same fate.

Listen to Dr. Odette Cohen, from Willingboro, New Jersey, a small business owner. The small business tax credits in the health care reform law not only lower the cost for her to provide good health insurance for her employees, but they also give her the flexibility to hire another nurse practitioner. She'll be seeing more patients and growing her business and helping the economy.

According to Forbes Magazine, major health insurance companies around the country are reporting a significant increase in small businesses offering health care benefits to their employees. Repeal would either force small businesses to drop their employees' coverage or businesses would bear the full cost of insurance themselves.

Speaker Boehner has pledged to listen to the people. Because of Hawaii's landmark Prepaid Health Care Act of 1974, which mandates that employers provide insurance coverage for their full-time employees, Hawaii's families have largely been spared from some of the most unfair insurance practices. But health care reform still helps thousands of families across our state.

A mother in Kailua, Hawaii contacted me to thank us because she could now add her 21-year-old son and 24-year-old daughter to her work-sponsored insurance plan. This mom used to pay $700 a month for her daughter's health insurance and $200 a month out-of-pocket for her prescription drugs.

Now, this mother pays just $300 a month to cover both of her children under her company's health plan. This family used to spend $10,800 a year for health care for one child. Now, they spend $3,600 a year for health care for the whole family. This family is using the money saved on health insurance for other household needs, including paying down past medical debt.

Middle class families are saving money because of health care reform. Young adults, many of whom are having a hard time finding jobs, now have health insurance. Under H.R. 2, thousands of young adults will lose their insurance coverage, including 2,500 in Hawaii.

Here's what else repealing health care reform will do to the people of Hawaii:

193,000 seniors in Hawaii who have Medicare coverage would be forced to pay a co-pay to receive important preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies.

Medicare would no longer pay for an annual check-up visit, so 193,000 seniors in Hawaii who have Medicare coverage would have to pay extra if they want to stay healthy by getting regular check-ups.

In Hawaii, 17,959 Medicare beneficiaries received a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate to help pay for prescription drugs in the ``donut hole'' coverage gap in 2010. I recently heard from a senior in Waimea on the island of Hawaii who referred to this check as a blessing. She was able to use that money to pay for her other medical bills.

Medicare beneficiaries who fall into the ``donut hole'' in 2011 will be eligible for 50 percent discounts on covered brand name prescription drugs. Closing the Medicare donut hole is an especially critical issue for Hawaii as we are home to the Nation's largest percentage--36 percent compared to 26 percent--of Medicare beneficiaries that fall into this gap of prescription drug coverage. Without repeal, the burden of high prescription drug costs would hurt millions of Medicare beneficiaries across the country.

An estimated 28,700 small businesses in Hawaii would no longer be eligible for the new federal tax credits that will help make providing health care coverage for their employees more affordable.

Let's be clear, the Patients' Rights Repeal Act will hurt, not help middle class families in Hawaii and across our Nation. That's bad enough. But this repeal also expands the federal deficit. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported that repealing the health reform law would increase the federal deficit by $230 billion over the next ten years and more than $1.2 trillion in the following decade.

At a time when our focus needs to be on jobs, bills should pass the following 3-pronged test: 1) Does it create jobs? 2) Does it strengthen America's middle class? and 3) Does it reduce the deficit? On all counts, H.R. 2 is a resounding failure. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting against H.R. 2.

Mahalo nui loa (thank you very much).

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