Democratic Leader Pelosi toured the new South of Market Health Center in San Francisco, which will open its doors on May 2nd and serve twice the number of patients as the existing health center. The Leader discussed the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act with Charles Range, Executive Director of the South of Market Health Center, John Gressman, President & CEO of the San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium, and Bay Area residents benefitting from health care reform. With the Affordable Care Act, Community Health Centers will see $11 billion in new funding over five years.
"Thank you very much, John, for the invitation to be here today. To you, and Charlie and to everyone associated with the South of Market Community Health Center here. The testimonials that we heard from our special VIP guests here today speak more eloquently to the need, urgency and success -- yes success -- of the Affordable Health Care Act. So I thank them for the statements that they made.
"You would be happy to know and I accept the compliments you have extended to me on behalf of my colleagues in the House of Representatives, who on the first day in the first week of the new Congress spent eleven hours in the Rules Committee telling stories of their constituents like yours. Whether Julie and Matt related to pre-existing conditions for a child -- and now you cannot be denied care because of a pre-existing medical condition and the impact that has on the lifetime cap. Concordia, they told stories about seniors in the districts who would not be able to have to make a choice between food, saving their homes and paying for their prescription drugs, but now the donut hole is closing and they do not have to make those difficult choices.
"Whether it was a question of Paula talking about students and Young Invincibles and their being able to stay on their parent's policy and Charlie testifies. Actually some people came to my office the other day, reporters as a matter of fact, and they said, "We think you should organize the parents who now will have their children on their policies and reduce their exposure in terms of their costs for their children.' So thank you for your testimony in that regard. Thank you, Julie, for testifying not only to the fact of students staying on their parent's policy, but also of the lifetime limit and the cap, as well as addressing life, liberty and pursuit of happiness which this is about. Do you want to be able to continue your education? Do you want to be creative? Do you want to be an artist? Do you want to be a photographer? Whatever your pursuit is. Do you want to start your own business?
"And that is something that Virginia and her husband did, and so this legislation helps small businesses provide health insurance for their employees. Your testimony Virginia is very important to us and we thank you for your leadership in providing health care to your employees and absorbing the tremendous cost increase. That is one of the reasons we had to do the bill, because of the costs. Costs to families, costs to individuals, costs to businesses, costs to our economy in terms of our competitiveness and costs to our Federal budget which could no longer withstand the increasing costs of health benefits.
"Here in the South of Market Health Center, on the brief tour that we took but Charlie has been talking about this for a long time and I have been happy that because of the model of national significance that he and those gathered here have developed here we were able to attract the sources to make some of this possible. I thank you Charlie for your leadership all along the way. You were part of the Consortium with John Gressman for years pushing the community health center model. This model has been used largely to reach underserved communities, but the fact is that the community health center model is the way of the future for a healthier America for all of us.
"Now, because of your excellence to have the health IT, the electronic medical records will follow patients here. The combination of health IT, electronic medical records and the community health centers taking health care to having proximity to the patients is again the way of the future. I would like to say, and I believe it to be true that the wealthiest person in our country, that the most privileged person with the most access to the most quality health care has better health care if every person in our society has access to healthcare because we learn from each other especially with the electronic medical records with a common record of the health of our country.
"What I saw here today, a lot of it is about peace and about prevention. People come in sooner, they are in the health care loop earlier. It is about prevention and wellness; it is about patient safety that we saw in the dental clinic and wasn't that beautiful? It is about, again that patient safety is one of the measures of success of the Affordable Health Act and we will be seeing more about that. It is about the private sector as well as Virginia testified in terms of helping businesses be able to afford quality health care insurance for their employees and therefore be able to attract the best talent. So we are very, very proud of all of this. As John said earlier, children are a great resource for our country. President Kennedy said they are our greatest resource and the best hope for the future and so everything is about our children and how what we do responds to their needs and their aspirations. That Violet who was here today was a special privilege for us all because so many children need to have access without being discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition and also that lifetime limit.
"So I am really honored to be able to celebrate the week of the one-year anniversary, one part of the bill was signed on March 23rd, the other part of the bill was signed on March 30th, and we are very proud of all of it. We are very grateful to President Obama for his tremendous leadership. The day after the bill was passed, he called me the next morning and said, "Last night when the bill passed the House I was happier than the night I was selected President of the United States' Imagine. He cares so much, that is why he ran for President. I said, "Well, I was pretty happy last night too, Mr. President' Can you just imagine? "but I was not happier than when you were elected President because if you were not elected President of the United States, we would not be having, without your leadership and your commitment to this, we would not be having this great celebration now.'
"So, I commend you here at the South of Market Medical Center for what you are doing. I mean the South of the Market Heath Center is an example to the rest of the country; it is a service to our community; it is making our country healthier. Charlie has been a part of not only advocating for community health centers. Now let me just talk to you about one other little thing.
"Right now we are having a debate in Congress about the budget and, as has been mentioned, we put billions of dollars in the Recovery Act, one of the first bills that the President signed. Billions of dollars for community health centers. Then fast forward to the health care bill. Over eleven billion dollars for community health centers. Nine billion of it for the programs of the centers, but a couple billion dollars to expand centers for capital improvements because we want more health centers to be in more places and we thought that was a good start. A good continuation of the start you had but a good start in the bill.
"So right now, the Republican Majority wants to cut these vital investments and reduce the funding for community health centers. Across the nation, the impact would be devastating to countless families to this effect. It would cut the funding and shut down 127 clinics in 31 states; it would reduce services at another 1,096 community health centers. Reduce services at over 1,000 community health centers. 2.8 million people would lose access to their primary care provider. And more than 5,000 health center staff would lose their jobs. We will continue to fight this on a day-to-day basis both in the budget and the rest. And I think this is one of those issues, where we are not just talking about dollars and cents here; we are talking about values. And it is a value for our country, passing the health care bill demonstrates a value for our country that we be healthy again. I come back to our founders who talked about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Imagine that they had that as part of their priorities way back when.
"We want people to have a healthier life, the liberty not be job locked but have the liberty to pursue their happiness whether it is to be creative in the arts, to start a small business, to take care of pets. Whether it is to change jobs and not be job locked because your child might have a pre-existing medical condition, and it is a bill that creates jobs, 4 million, and reduces the deficit and saves 1.3 trillion dollars.
"So there is a great deal to celebrate about this legislation. The President has always said that we will measure our success by the impact it has on America's working families. And right here, in South of Market Health Center, we see the impact that it has in a positive way because of the leadership of John and Charlie and all the people that we see gathered here. And that is why we are so proud of our special guests here today for their testimonials. To Julia and to Virginia and to Paula and Concordia and to Matt. Matt took Violet outside.
"But we thank you. Carry back your compliments to our colleagues. But be sure that you know that they will take your message even further as we fight any assault on the funding or provisions of the Affordable Care Act. So thank you all very much for what you do on a day-to-day basis to make our community and our country healthier, and thank you to our guests for their important testimony.
"Thank you, John Gressman, and thank you, Charlie Range, for your leadership. John Gressman has been coming to Washington for how long?
John: "20 years"
" to fight this fight. So we are so pleased that community health centers are a centerpiece of it, and that is why I think it is perfectly appropriate for us to celebrate the health care passage one year later right here. Thank you very much."