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Public Statements

CBC Hour: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. AL GREEN of Texas. Thank you, Dr. Christensen. I especially thank you for chairing the Health Care Task Force and for the outstanding job that you've done through the years. You have shown a great deal of dedication to health care for all, and I believe that those who write history will be exceedingly kind to you when they record how you fought so that every person could have health care as a matter of right as opposed to as a matter of wealth. You have done your best to make sure health care doesn't become wealth care.

I would also like to thank my colleague, Sheila Jackson Lee, who spoke just ahead of me and you, for the hard work that she is doing across the length and breadth of this country to help us with these issues concerning health care for all as well.

The Affordable Care Act is called the Affordable Care Act for a reason. In 2009, when we were embarking upon this transformation in health care, we were spending about $2.5 trillion per year on health care. And $2.5 trillion is a huge number. It is very difficult to grasp $2.5 trillion. That $2.5 trillion is about $79,000 per second. That's what we were spending in 2009. That was 17.6 percent of GDP--$79,000-plus per second. And it was projected in 2009 that in 2018 we would be spending $4.4 trillion per year. A big number, $4.4 trillion. How much is it really? That's $139,000 per second, which equates to about 20.3 percent of GDP. That's $139,000 per second.

We needed the Affordable Care Act. In the State of Texas, we were spending huge amounts of money because we had 6 million people who were uninsured--1.1 million in my county, Harris County, uninsured. Twenty percent of the State's children were uninsured. In 2009, we needed the Affordable Care Act. There was a reason why it's called the Affordable Care Act. Because upon passing it, it's projected still that it will--and this is per CBO--that it will save a trillion dollars-plus over a 20-year period.

This bill, this legislation, reduces the cost of care. It was something that had to be done. But equally as important as reducing the cost of care, it spreads health care, about 50 million people who, but for this bill, probably would not receive some health care. I do believe that it's important that we not have 45,000 people per year die because they don't have insurance. That's a lot of folks who lose their lives. We were losing about one person every 12 minutes, I believe.

This is an important piece of legislation to save lives. It saves money. But equally as important as saving money--in my world, more important--is the fact that it saves lives. It saves the lives of children. It will cause children to have the opportunity to stay on the insurance of their parents until they are 26 years of age.

It closes the doughnut hole for senior citizens with their pharmaceuticals. We had a system that allowed you to pay a copay and a premium up to a certain point, and then you had to pay all of the costs of your health care, and then at another point you would again receive some additional assistance. This bill closes that doughnut hole for those who are in the twilight of life when you need pharmaceuticals the most.

By the way, the insurance companies were not eager to take on persons in the twilight of life when there is much to be spent on health care. They don't go out looking for people to insure in the twilight of life. This bill covers people to make sure they get pharmaceuticals in the twilight of life.

But it does something special for women. It is the discrimination that exists against women who get the same coverage, the same insurance that men get, but pay more because of their gender. There really is a gender bias in the insurance industry, and women pay more for similar coverage. This bill ends it. Women ought not be required to pay more because they are women. This bill ends it.

It also helps us with persons in need of preventive care. And at some point in life, we all need preventive care, so theoretically I suppose it helps everyone. But preventive care is very important. Preventive care can hold down the cost of health care. If you can treat and prevent an illness, you don't pay that inordinate amount of money you have to pay once a person has an illness and has to receive medical attention.

One such area of preventive care has to do with contraception. This is an adult conversation, and I want adults to know that men can receive their contraceptives in their neighborhoods, bus stops and truck stops. They can receive contraceptives. It is easy for men to acquire contraceptives. If men can get them in their neighborhoods, women should be able to get them at Planned Parenthood. There is no reason why men should have easy access and women be denied access. These are matters for families to consider and individuals to make choices about, and I think that women ought to be able to make the same choices that men can make when it comes to contraception.

I would add, as I close, that this bill is going to make a difference in the lives of a lot of people. And what I regret is that many people really don't understand the positive impact that it will have on them. And it's very unfortunate because there are many people who will benefit from this bill but who do not understand how it will have a positive impact on their lives. It is unfortunate that we sometimes don't know as much about a thing as we should so that we can speak about it in terms of knowledge that we have as opposed to what we have heard.

Read the Affordable Care Act. Look at the summaries of it. No one denies--no one denies--that it allows you to keep your child on your health insurance until your child is 26 years of age. No one denies that it is closing the doughnut hole for senior citizens as it relates to their pharmaceuticals. No one denies that it will allow preventive care to take place such that people can receive treatment that will prevent them from having to go to the hospital, to give them an opportunity to remain healthy and not have to treat an unhealthy person. No one denies that it will help keep people out of the emergency rooms.

We were spending $100 billion per year in emergency rooms in '09. People were going to emergency rooms for their pharmaceuticals and their treatments that they could receive at a general practitioner's office. This bill would end this.

This is a good piece of legislation that will help people in the dawn of life when they are born with preexisting conditions and in the twilight of life when they're in need of special attention and treatment that the wealthy can now afford.

I do believe that in this country, if we find you to be an enemy combatant and if we should mortally wound you in the process of taking you into custody, if we should wound you, perhaps not kill you but we wound you when we do capture you, if we don't mortally wound you, if we don't kill you, we will give you aid and comfort. We give aid and comfort to our enemy combatants, people who are trying to kill us. We will give them aid and comfort if we wound them in battle.

In this country, if you are a bank robber and if, on the way out of the bank we should harm you physically when we capture you, we will give you aid and comfort. In this country, we give aid and comfort to criminals.

In this country, if you are on death row and you are on your way to meet your Maker next week, if you get sick this week, we will give you aid and comfort and send you to meet your Maker next week.

If we can give aid and comfort to the enemy combatant, if we can give aid and comfort to the criminal, if we can give aid and comfort to the person who's on death row who's going to die next week, surely we can give aid and comfort to hardworking American citizens who cannot afford health care but for the Affordable Care Act, which, by the way, mandates that every person who can afford health care acquire health care. It does not require people to buy health care who cannot afford health care.

This is the richest country in the world. One out of every 100 persons is a millionaire. In spite of all that you hear, we still are. And in this, the richest country in the world, we cannot allow health care to become wealth care.

I thank you for yielding to me, and I gladly yield back to you.

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