Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act this evening at the American Psychological Association Banquet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. At the event, the American Psychological Association presented Leader Pelosi with the Outstanding Leadership Award. Below are the Leader's remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Thank you, Dr. Katherine Nordal for the honor of the Outstanding Leadership Award. And thank you for your outstanding leadership on behalf of America's 60,000 practicing psychologists and the millions of patients they serve.
"I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Norman Anderson, CEO of APA, and Dr. Melba Vasquez, the President of APA for 2011, and the first Latina to hold this role.
"I share tonight's honor with all of you for your work, in partnership with House Democrats, to make quality mental health services available for all Americans.
"When I came to Congress, my first health policy advisor was Dr. Steve Morin - past president of the California Psychological Association -- who ensured that mental health and addiction issues were part of every discussion on health, especially our work to fight HIV/AIDS
"For more than a decade, we worked on the issue of mental health and addiction parity. We were inspired by Senator Paul Wellstone. We were led by Congressmen Patrick Kennedy and Jim Ramstad -- who generously shared their personal stories, and worked in a bipartisan way.
"You know why mental health parity is so vital. Every year, mental illness results in 1.3 billion lost days of work or school. That adds up to more lost productivity for mental illness than arthritis, stroke, heart attack and cancer combined. And today, more than 113 million Americans are protected from discrimination by their insurance companies if they seek treatment for mental illness.
"We are so proud that this law is now enforceable -- and doing exactly what it was intended to do. But this legislation was just the beginning.
"Our signature accomplishment -- with House Democrats mobilized on the inside, and the American Psychological Association mobilized on the outside -- is the Affordable Care Act.
"Because of your efforts, one year ago, we acted to:
* Insure 32 million more people;
* Put medical decisions in the hands of patients and their medical professionals, not insurance company bureaucrats;
* Bring down the cost of prescription drugs for seniors;
* End the days of discrimination based on a pre-existing condition and lifetime caps on care for children and families;
* Ensure being a women is no longer a pre-existing condition;
* Offer tax credits to millions of small businesses who choose to do right by their employees and offer insurance benefits.
"Your advocacy was essential to ensure: expanded protections of mental health parity for a much larger group of Americans; the inclusion of mental health and substance abuse services as essential benefits in the health insurance exchanges; and a focus on improvements in quality of care, including the coordination of care that helps ensure health needs, including mental health needs, don't fall through the cracks.
"We passed health care reform for America's families. We passed health care reform for Colleen, a mom in Nebraska, and for her four beautiful children. Colleen and her husband are facing incredible challenges: two of her children have rare kidney disorders and her eight year old son, Matthew, is profoundly autistic.
"To get Matthew the treatment and medicine he needs, Colleen has had to fight her insurance company every step of the way. But she does this because, as she said, "If my son was not on his medication -- if he wasn't treated - he could not live at home with us.'
"Colleen shouldn't have to fight to keep her son at home. His mental illness deserves treatment just as much as any illness does. As she said, "The brain is an organ. Just like your heart. Just like your lungs. Mental health is a health issue.'
"Today, because of the Affordable Care Act, Colleen's children cannot be denied coverage because they have pre-existing conditions. They will never face lifetime limits on their care. And we will keep working to ensure illness in the brain is treated like illness anywhere else in the body.
"I know that tomorrow, you will be storming Capitol Hill. I urge you to stand strong for families like Colleen's by protecting the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to make the case for protecting the Medicare reimbursement and against severe Medicaid cuts. And together we must work on behalf of the doc fix, ensuring that seniors get to keep their doctors. Democrats are committed to working to prevent cuts of nearly 30 percent next January.
"In all our efforts on behalf of mental health, we must remember our veterans. Mental health parity is especially relevant to our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who later become employed in the private sector. It is potentially lifesaving for our National Guardsmen and women and reservists who have deployed abroad but don't receive VA care for their lifetime. At our recent meeting with the Veterans Service Organizations, mental health was at the top of the agenda. As you know, the suicide rate of our troops is on an increase.
"Tonight you have honored me for making quality mental health services available for all Americans. But it is you who provide the quality, and compassionate, mental health care -- person-to-person, bringing people to health. On behalf of families like Colleen's -- thank you for creating a healthier America!"