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Ms. PELOSI. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I appreciate his leadership for helping us honor what our Founders put forth in our founding documents, which is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And that is exactly what the Affordable Care Act helps to guarantee: a healthier life, the liberty to pursue happiness free of the constraints that the lack of health care might provide to a family. If you want to be a photographer, a writer, an artist, a musician, you can do so. If you want to start a business, if you want to change jobs, under the Affordable Care Act, you have that liberty to pursue your happiness.
So that is why I am so pleased that this week we can celebrate the 2-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act; and I want to mention some of the provisions that are in it but not before mentioning that the legislation on the floor today is a feeble attempt to unravel legislation that makes a big difference in the lives of America's families.
You be the judge: if you are a family with a child with asthma, diabetes, is bipolar, has a preexisting medical condition, up until this bill, your child could be discriminated against for life of ever receiving affordable health insurance and, therefore, care. The full thrust of the law does not take place until 2014; but already, for months now, no child in America can be denied health coverage because of a preexisting condition, and soon all Americans will have that same protection.
For the first time in American history, millions of American women and seniors have access to free preventive health services, services that prevent, that are better early intervention to detect a possible illness in a person.
Eighty-six million Americans have already received key preventive health benefits under the law, and more than 5 million seniors have saved over $3.2 billion in prescription drug expenses. Already, $3.2 billion in prescription drug benefits because of provisions of the law that are already in effect.
So if you're a senior and you're caught in the doughnut hole, or you would have been, you are already benefiting from this law. And that's what the Republicans are trying to take away from you, from your family, from your life, from your liberty, from your pursuit of happiness.
The last point about seniors and prescription drugs is particularly important because it fits in with our consistent commitment from day one as authors of Medicare in the sixties, fits with our consistent commitment to always strengthen Medicare for American seniors, never weaken it. Indeed, as I mentioned, Democrats created Medicare, sustained Medicare, and Democrats will always protect Medicare even from language that is so misleading as to make one wonder.
Republicans, on the other hand, have voted to end Medicare. End the Medicare guarantee. They have said that their goal for Medicare is for it to wither on the vine. And tonight's legislation is a part of the withering on the vine. It's important for you to know that if you care about Medicare, if you depend on Medicare, this is the wither-on-the-vine scenario.
In fact, just yesterday, the Republicans released their budget, which would end the Medicare guarantee and shift cost to seniors. End the guarantee. What does that mean? Shift cost to seniors--perhaps up to $6,400 for most seniors a year--and, again, let Medicare wither on the vine. That's why today's legislation is such a cynical political ploy. And I know that American seniors will not be fooled by it.
Today brought legislation to repeal what is known as IPAB, the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Independent. Independent of political influence over decisions that are made. This piece of the legislation was a bend-the-curve to reduce the cost of health care in America.
Republicans are desperate to distract seniors from their real record on Medicare, and that's what they're trying to do today. I say that without any fear of contradiction and without any hesitation because nothing less is at stake than the well-being of our seniors, their personal health, and their economic health. And that means their security.
Further, in this bill Republicans have recycled their old medical malpractice liability legislation that undermines states' rights and hurts the rights of injured patients to obtain just compensation.
Because of the impact on American States of what they're trying to do in this bill, the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures has strongly opposed this bill. That bipartisan group says that after a careful review it had reached ``the resounding bipartisan conclusion that Federal medical malpractice legislation is unnecessary.''
Again, Madam Speaker, this week we celebrate the 2-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act for what it embodies. It's about innovation. It's about not just health care in America but a healthier America. It's about prevention and innovation. It's about customized, personalized care. It's about electronic medical records. It's about lowering costs, expanding access, and improving quality.
So much misleading information is put out there about it that it's important to keep repeating the difference, the transformative nature of the legislation. In fact, it has already begun to transform the lives of America's children by saying no longer will they be denied coverage because they have a preexisting medical condition. And soon we can fully say that no longer being a woman is a preexisting medical condition, where women are discriminated against to the tune of a billion dollars a year, and cost of premiums, not to mention exclusion from obtaining coverage.
And so I proudly celebrate the 2-year anniversary, and I emphatically oppose the legislation on the floor. If you want to unravel Medicare, vote ``aye.'' If you want to support Medicare, if you think health care is a right for the many, not just a privilege for the few, vote ``no.''
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