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Health Care and Making It in America

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ALTMIRE. I thank the gentleman from California.

I was listening to the discussion, as I often do, and I wanted to bring a perspective to join that discussion, Mr. Speaker, as they were both talking about health care.

As one who did not support the health care bill originally, I do think it's important to recognize, as has been happening in this discussion, what's working with regard to the health care bill, what's already been implemented that's making a real difference in people's lives.

The reason I did not support repeal of the health care bill both times we brought it up was because I have the fourth most Medicare beneficiaries of any district in the country. I have 135,000 Medicare beneficiaries. Many of them are caught in the doughnut hole, what we have come to know as that gap in coverage in the Part D prescription drug program. We are now entering the third year of the phase-in to completely close that doughnut hole. Already, people who are in the doughnut hole have received a $250 compensation for coverage through the doughnut hole. They're getting a steep discount on brand-name drugs. Moving forward, as I say in the years to come, they're going to completely close the doughnut hole and get coverage all the way through. That's something that would not have happened if we had repealed the health care bill.

Small businesses all across the country that struggle with the skyrocketing cost of health care that's affecting every family and every business in this country, they're getting a tax credit to help offset the cost, to provide coverage, if they choose, to their employees. That's something that's making a real difference in the district that I represent. They are being able to cover people up to age 26. Often, they are recent college graduates struggling in the down economy. With the job market of today, the parents' plan is being able to for a short period of time insure those young adults after they've graduated from school and may be in transition in their life or in the job market. That's making a real difference for people that I represent. For people with preexisting conditions-- children today and, beginning in 2014, for adults--they will not be able to be denied coverage because of a chronic health condition. That's something that's long overdue in this country. Those are all things that have been implemented. They're in the law today. They're taking effect, and they're impacting people. We can't overlook that.

The legal issues have been decided. This is settled law now. What we need to do is make sure--especially with the Medicaid ruling, which was not talked about as much because the court focused on the mandate. But with the States being able to opt out on the Medicaid side, we have to find a way for health care providers to be guaranteed coverage for people who come to their door, whether they be a hospital, a physician, a long-term care facility, whatever it may be. When the health care bill was put into place, before it became law, the deal that was made in return for universal coverage covering people in this country was the providers--all those provider groups I mentioned--gave a little. They understood they had to take some cuts to help offset the cost of that, the cost to the government and to the taxpayer. Now the court has said that States can opt out of part of that through the Medicaid program. We need to make sure that those health care providers are able to keep their end of the bargain and the government keeps their end of the bargain by finding a way to cover everybody.

I did want to add that perspective again as someone who didn't originally support the bill. There are things that are working and have been implemented, and I commend both my friends from California and New York for having the discussion tonight.

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Mr. ALTMIRE. I appreciate the gentleman opening the door for that issue, and health care is just one issue facing American families in the country today. I know that this group that meets periodically when we're done with session to have these discussions, as I'm sure both of my colleagues do, Mr. Speaker, I hear from people in my district after these discussions show up on people's TVs.

I hear from people all over the country, in fact, that say you need to continue talking about the job market, continue talking about infrastructure repair, something we have talked about at length, talk about health care, talk about issues facing small businesses and working families in America, because that's something that I think gets lost in the politicization that takes place in a Presidential election year. We're starting to head towards that time of the year when politics trumps everything, and it's unfortunate because what gets lost is these are real people. These are real Americans that are suffering in the job market.

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Mr. ALTMIRE. Absolutely, I would agree. I had a chance to chat with them earlier today, and there is no group that should stand ahead of our Nation's veterans when it comes time to making Federal funding decisions, so I'm glad that they are joining us today.

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