Mr. COHEN. Mr. Speaker, the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act is the culmination of an American political journey that started a century ago with Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 with the Bull Moose Party--also a Republican--and picked up years later by Harry Truman and other Presidents, including Richard Nixon, another Republican. The most recent groundwork for reform was laid in part by the former Republican Presidential candidate, Robert Dole, as an alternative to Hillary Clinton's plan, and by the present Republican Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. I commend them for championing the concept of the individual mandate back when it wasn't quite as unpopular on their side of the aisle.
The history of reforming our Nation's health care system is a strong one that has historically been championed by lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum, until this Congress. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have wasted hours upon hours debating and voting upon the various versions of the legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act.
My colleagues know that these initiatives are fruitless. They know that voting over and over and over again--more than 30 times total--on measures to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a waste of time, but they keep calling for these votes. Do you want to know why? Because they want to distract the American public from the fact that they are so committed to unseating our President, Barack Obama, that they haven't passed any effective jobs-creating legislation since they took over the majority in this House in 2010.
The Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and it's time to face the facts. Earlier today, a gentleman from Virginia said, Oh, it was just 5-4. Bush v. Gore was 5-4. We accepted that the person who got the least votes and lost Florida was President of the United States for 8 years, but the consequences we still have to face.
The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. As a result, millions of Americans who were previously uninsured or underinsured have access to affordable, high-quality health care. In fact, the number of Americans uninsured is equal to the population of 25 of the 50 States.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans and small businesses have already benefited from lower health care costs, increased access to preventive care, and stronger patient protections.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 12.8 million families will receive rebates that total over $1 billion from insurers next month, in August, because the law requires companies to provide value for their premium dollar. Never before has that happened.
Community health centers in my district have received over $10 million to deliver health care services to underserved and impoverished Memphians, and 170,000 households in my district will get a premium credit so they can afford quality health insurance coverage.
Women no longer are considered a preexisting condition, and insurance companies can't charge them more, which they did, by 40 percent.
Medicare beneficiaries now have access to preventive care and services without any copay.
And 64,000 people in my district will go from uninsured to insured.
32.5 million seniors nationwide received one or more preventive care treatments in 2011.
The doughnut hole is being closed; 50 percent discounts on covered brand-name generics.
Annual and lifetime caps on health care coverage are now illegal, meaning insurance companies can't kick you off the plan just because you get cancer or are in an accident or have a heart attack.
Our children are now protected because insurers are prevented from denying coverage to children under 19 for preexisting conditions. This means up to 17 million children with preexisting conditions are now protected from discrimination.
Young adults can remain on their parents' insurance until they're 26, providing some protection in this uncertain job market.
It's now affordable for small businesses to provide insurance to employees. The tax credits cover up to 35 percent of the cost of coverage and will go up to 50 percent in 2014. In fact, in 2011, 360,000 small employers used the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit to help them afford health insurance for 2 million workers.
One of the most misleading arguments by my colleagues concerns that penalty that will be assessed on those financially-able Americans who choose not to purchase insurance, thereby not taking responsibility for their health care. Responsibility. That's one of the keynotes of the Republican side.
But if an uninsured person in my district gets into a car accident or comes down with an aggressive illness, they're taken to a public hospital in Memphis called The MED. The MED treats everybody because they have to, and when The MED takes cares of those people, the property owners, the responsible people, pay for it through higher property taxes, or you pay for it with your insurance, if you have it, because it's uncompensated care if you go to a non-public hospital.
The time and effort put in by nurses and doctors and assistants at The MED aren't free. The medical devices and supplies that The MED used to treat those uninsured people aren't free. Every single resident of Shelby County pays for those services when a person seeks emergency services there, and the taxes go up.
People who choose not to buy insurance for themselves and their families, even with the Federal Government providing incentives and credits, are irresponsible free riders, and it's the free riders that the other side's trying to talk about, not the conscientious and responsible people who take control of their own lives and their own destinies.
Not taking responsibility for the health of yourself and your family is reckless. The free riders have been a burden on our national health care system for far too long, and it's time they take responsibility for their actions and their health. This penalty, which will be equal to no more than the estimated cost of an insurance premium, is the way we do it.
It's long past time we implement the health reform initiated by Teddy Roosevelt and championed by people of both parties. It's time Americans realize and take advantage of their right to quality healthcare. And it's long past time my colleagues stop playing partisan politics and start working on behalf of the American people, not giant corporations, once again.