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Public Statements

Medicare

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BERA of California. Mr. Speaker, over the past several weeks, I've been talking to my constituents and I've been talking to former patients about the importance of Medicare and how Medicare has impacted their lives, how they've relied on it.

As a doctor, I've taken care of thousands of patients, patients who have worked their whole life paying into a system so that they could rest easy at a time when they needed their health care. They wouldn't have to worry about it.

This is a value and a program that has served millions of Americans for decades. They've come to rely on Medicare. It is a program that works. It is a program that we've come to rely on as doctors.

Let me make it even a little more personal than that. Let me tell you the story about my parents, who came here as immigrants over 50 years ago.

My mom was a public school teacher and my dad was an engineer and a small business owner. They got up every day. They went to work. They paid into a system over a lifetime so that when they needed their health care, they could rest easy. They knew they had a Medicare system.

Let me even make it more personal. Over these past few years, my dad is in his late seventies and he has needed knee replacements. He was able to get them. His doctor was able to order the care that was necessary to take care of him.

A few months ago, my mom suffered a mild stroke. My dad didn't have to hesitate about whether she could get health care or not. My dad could pick up the phone, call 911 and get her to the hospital. She was able to get the care that was necessary that millions of Americans count on. Her doctor was able to come and see her. Her doctor was able to order the postoperative care that was necessary.

That is why millions of Americans rely on Medicare--so they can rest easy at a time when they need that security of health care. It is a system that works. It is a system that working men and women in America pay into over their lifetimes so that, when they're at their most vulnerable, they're able to get the care that they need. I've seen it time and time again as a doctor. Let me share a story with you.

As a young intern in my training as a doctor in internal medicine, one of my first patients was a Roman Catholic priest, Father Mike. It was my first month working in a hospital and doing my rounds in the intensive care unit. Now, Father Mike was afflicted with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Father Mike would be in and out of the hospital, and would be devastatingly sick. For those of you who know about Lou Gehrig's disease, it is a progressive illness that slowly deteriorates and eats away at your body. It takes away your muscles and your ability to breathe. So, over the course of 2 years, I would see Father Mike repeatedly going in and out of the intensive care unit. He needed that care to keep him alive. Without Medicare, he wouldn't have been able to afford the care.

Now, let's ask ourselves as Americans: What are our values?

Our values are that we take care of our seniors, that we take care of our parents and grandparents, and we want to honor them after a lifetime of work. That is who we are. Those are our morals as Americans, and that is why I'm on the floor of the House of Representatives today to talk about how important Medicare is, not only for my parents but for parents throughout this country, for grandparents throughout this country, and also for that next generation that is currently paying into the system. I'm not alone. My fellow colleagues in medicine care about this deeply.

With that, I would like to recognize my colleague, a fellow physician from California, Dr. Raul Ruiz.

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Mr. BERA of California. Thank you, Dr. Ruiz.

I urge Americans to share their stories. I urge them to share the importance of Medicare and how they rely on it. Share the stories about your parents and grandparents. I urge the Members of this body to share their stories. We all have parents and grandparents. We all care about this program, and we all have stories to tell.

Just today, in my office, I had a colorectal cancer survivor come to visit. She talked about how her cancer was diagnosed early because she was able to go get a colonoscopy--because she was able to get the preventive care services that were necessary. She would not have been able to do that had she not had access to Medicare, had she not had access to basic cancer prevention.

That is what's at stake here--making sure that our seniors, that our parents and grandparents, have access to that care when they need it the most. That's why I'm on the floor here today, because we have to protect Medicare--a program that has worked for decades. It is a program that we rely on, so I want to hear your stories about how we protect Medicare and make sure it's there for generations. This is a program that has worked time and time again. Let me even share another story of patients that I've taken care of.

I've taken care of hundreds of men and women who do physical labor--construction workers, folks who get up every morning and go to work. They don't make a lot of money, but they pay into a system. I'd encourage every American to pull out their paychecks and take a look at them, and you'll see right on there that you're paying into the Medicare system. Even those who are 25 or 30 years old are paying into the system.

Why do we do that?

We pay into the system so that, when we need our health care, we're able to get it. That's what we do as Americans. We know we're in this together, that we care for one another. That is the beauty of Medicare. As I'm working today, I am paying to make sure that my parents and grandparents have the health care they need so that, when I need that health care in retirement, when I'm a senior, I can get it, and so that I can rest easy and not have to worry about that.

That's why we are encouraging you to share your stories. We want to hear your stories about how Medicare has impacted your life and why it is so vital that this body protect Medicare and strengthen Medicare. Share your stories with us on Facebook or Twitter.

I would like to now recognize my colleague, the distinguished gentlelady from Florida (Ms. Frankel).

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Mr. BERA of California. Thank you, Congresswoman Frankel.

You know, I look at this whole issue from the eyes of a doctor. That's how I have to, that's how I was trained as a doctor. One of the first rules we take when we are sworn in as doctors, the oath and the promise that we make is to do good, benevolence. That is core to what we do, and that is core to what this body needs to understand.

This is not about Republicans versus Democrats. We need to come together to do good for our parents and grandparents, to do good for our seniors, to make sure that we honor the promise that we made to them that after a lifetime of work that they would be able to get the care when they needed it the most. That they could rest easy and not have to worry about getting the care that they needed.

Those are American values. Those aren't Democrat versus Republican. We need to start setting aside that partisanship. And as to the oath I took when I became a doctor and was sworn into the field of medicine, we need to do good. We need to have the courage to put our patients and American citizens first. That is what this is about. That is why I'm on the floor today talking as a doctor about the patients that I've cared for.

Now, I've heard from others that I represent. Tina shared a story with me. Her father died a few weeks ago after spending a month in the hospital.

Medicare meant her family never had to worry about what the cost of his care was during his illness. Medicare meant that her mother doesn't have to live a life in bankruptcy now, that she could rest easy that her husband was able to get the care that he needed. Medicare meant that they knew in her father's last days that he was getting good health care, that his doctors were able to give him the care that was necessary at the end of his life.

Tina has urged me to fight every day to make sure that every family has the same peace and the same support and the same security that her family had and that she felt at a time when her father needed the care. That's what this is about. This is about doing what we do as Americans. We care for one another. We build a system where we're all in this together, where those of us who are working are paying into a system over a lifetime so that the seniors of today are able to get that care and that we pay it forward. Those are our values. Those are American values, and it's not Democrat versus Republican; and we have to get past this.

As we are on this floor, as we're making votes, we have to think about those who came before us, our parents, our grandparents, the seniors who built this country. That is who we are as Americans, and that's why we want to hear your stories about why Medicare is so important. Share those stories with us on Facebook. Share those stories with us on Twitter. Let your Representatives know why it is so important you want us to keep fighting for Medicare every day.

I'd now like to actually hear a story from my colleague, the distinguished gentlewoman from the great State of Ohio.

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Mr. BERA of California. Thank you to my colleague from the great State of Ohio.

That's why we are asking folks today to share their stories. We would love to hear your story about how Medicare has affected you or a family member or a friend. Share it on Facebook or Twitter. We want to hear those stories. This body needs to hear those stories. This body needs to make sure, when we're taking votes, we're voting understanding those stories.

As a doctor, I took an oath to do good, to do no harm. Well, if Medicare becomes a voucher program, it will do irreparable harm to thousands of Americans, and that is not what we need.

The reason why I'm on the floor today is to talk about the good that Medicare has done for millions of Americans. Americans, like another one of my constituents, Pat. She shared with us a story.

Pat was a single mom. She worked hard her whole life and raised two kids on her own. Pat is now 77 years old. She has high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. She had to have open-heart surgery and afterwards was prescribed very expensive medications and cardiac rehabilitation. She had to get back on her feet because she wanted to be with her family.

There's no way Pat could have afforded that surgery if she didn't have Medicare. There's no way Pat could have afforded the medications that she needed if she didn't have Medicare. There's no way that the doctors that cared for Pat would have been able to prescribe the therapies that she needed to keep her alive. That is what's at risk here.

This is about protecting our seniors, making sure that after a lifetime of work, after a lifetime of paying into a system, that they can rest easy; that they don't have to worry about whether they can get the health care that they need when they need it the most, they can rest easy.

That's why we want to hear your stories. Please share your story about how Medicare has impacted your life or your family's life on Facebook or Twitter.

I would now like to yield to my dear friend and colleague from the great State of California, my home State, Mr. Honda.

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Mr. BERA of California. I thank my dear friend and colleague from California, Congressman Honda.

The reason why we are here today, the reason why we are speaking on the floor today, is because of the importance of Medicare. This isn't a Democratic or a Republican issue. This is an issue that affects all Americans. It's an issue that is dear to all Americans, to all American families. It isn't Democratic or Republican.

That's why I'm wearing this pin that says, ``No Labels.'' Because we've got to move past these labels, Democrat versus Republican, and think about what our values are as Americans--the values of making sure we take care of our parents and grandparents, that we honor the foundation that they built for us, that those that came before us built; that we honor, after a lifetime of work, after a lifetime paying into a system, that they can rest easy, that they know they can get the health care that they need when they need it the most.

That's why we want you to share your stories with us about how Medicare has impacted you personally or your family. I think about this and the thousands of patients that I've taken care of, and what Medicare has meant to them; how it saved millions of lives, how it's kept millions of families from falling into poverty because they were able to get the health care that was necessary when they needed it the most.

Another one of my constituents, Katherine, shared a story with us recently. Katherine had a sister who was diagnosed with lung cancer and chronic lung disease. At first, she was hesitant. She was a little bit worried about using her Medicare because she didn't want to be a burden. She wanted to be independent. But she looked at it and she realized she had paid into this system her whole life and was grateful that it was there for her. She realized that she wasn't being a burden and that this is the system that she had paid into, and it was there for her. Medicare covered her bills and kept her alive. That's why we're here on the floor today talking about Medicare.

When I talk about this, it's personal. I talk about this as a doctor. I talk about this as a son whose parents are aging. I think about the people who live in my neighborhood, like my neighbor, Jerry. He's a widower. His wife passed away several years ago. Jerry's also a cancer survivor. He has to go in for routine blood transfusions and routine care. He doesn't have to worry about whether he can get that care or not because of Medicare. Because he paid into the system his whole life, now he can get the care that he needs.

Millions of families across this country depend on Medicare. That's why we're here talking about protecting Medicare. And that's why we want to hear your stories about how Medicare has impacted your life. I would love to here those stories and want you to share them on Facebook or Twitter. Medicare allows patients that I've seen--patients with diabetes, with high blood pressure, with high cholesterol--to get the medications that they need. Medicare allows me as a doctor to write those prescriptions and know that my patients are able to get the care that they need.

Medicare is not about Democrats versus Republican. It is about doing the honorable thing that we do as Americans. Because that's who we are. Those are our values as Americans. As Americans, we want to make sure that after a lifetime of work, we're going to protect the promise that we made to our parents and grandparents. And I know it's not Democrats versus Republican because you can see it in that picture of when the Tea Party first emerged in this country in 2009. They were holding up their signs saying, ``Keep your hands off of our Medicare.'' You know what? I'd say the same thing.

As we go through these budget debates, let's keep our hands off of Medicare. Yes, we've got to address the cost of health care. But as my colleague, Congressman Honda shared, Medicare works extremely well. It's a program that has worked for decades. It is a program that has allowed me as a doctor and has allowed countless doctors across this country to deliver the necessary care when we needed to and to do what we were trained to do--to be doctors.

That is why I'm on the floor today talking about how we protect that promise that we made to our parents and grandparents, and how we protect and honor the promises that we've made. Yes, we face challenges in this country. Yes, we have to address our debt and deficit. And we have to build for the future so our children grow up in the same vibrant world that we grew up in with a country that's leading the way. But we can't do that by breaking a promise that we made to our parents and grandparents. We can't do that on the backs of seniors, taking care away from them when they need it the most.

This has to be bipartisan. Because how we treat our elders, how we treat our parents and grandparents, is a direct reflection of who we are as Americans. We need to start talking about this in a bipartisan way. We need to shelve the idea of dismantling Medicare and we have to talk about the idea of strengthening Medicare, making it more secure so that it is there not only for today's seniors but that it is there for the generations, that it is there for our children and grandchildren. It is a system that works extremely well.

Yes, we have to talk about the cost of health care. We have to address the cost of health care. But Medicare isn't the problem. Medicare works extremely well. Ask any senior. Eighty percent of seniors love Medicare. They don't want to see it changed. They don't want to see this body messing around with Medicare. They want us to strengthen it, and they understand that we have to deal with the cost of health care. But the system of Medicare has delivered care extremely well.

That's why I'm on the floor asking you to share your Medicare story. I'm asking you to share that story on Twitter or share it through Facebook. Because this body needs to hear those stories. This body needs to understand that Medicare is a vital program for millions of seniors, that our parents and grandparents depend on this program, and that our doctors and our hospitals depend on Medicare.

Now is not the time to be talking about dismantling Medicare. Now is the time to be talking about how we strengthen Medicare, how we make sure it's there for the generations. That's why I'm on the floor today, as a doctor but also as a son whose parents rely on Medicare. That's why I want to hear your stories, and I want you to share your Medicare story on Facebook or Twitter.

I now yield to my great friend and colleague from the great State of Oregon.

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Mr. BERA of California. Well, I appreciate my friend and colleague from the great State of Oregon.

We've heard wonderful stories from all across this country tonight as my colleagues have shared their experience with Medicare, personal stories about what Medicare has meant to their parents. We want to hear your stories as well. Your Representatives on both sides of the aisle need to hear your stories of what Medicare means to you personally and to your families. Because Medicare is a promise that we've made to our parents and grandparents, to millions of seniors across this country. It is a promise that after a lifetime of work, after a lifetime paying into a system, you can rest easy. You don't have to worry about whether you'll be able to get the health care that you need at a time when you need it the most.

This can't be a partisan issue. It can't be Democrats versus Republicans. Because we're all sons and daughters. We all think about our seniors. Those are our values as Americans. It isn't who we are as a Nation. We respect our elders. That's how we were raised.

As a doctor, we rely on the importance of Medicare. We rely on the ability that at a time when our patients are at their most vulnerable, when they need health care, that I can write that prescription, that I can do the treatment or order that surgery when it's needed. That is the promise that we've made, and that's why we're here fighting every day.

I urge this body, and I urge my colleagues, as we are looking to address the challenges of this Nation, we acknowledge and understand that Medicare is not one of those challenges. Medicare is one of the success stories of America. Medicare is a success story that has kept millions of Americans healthy and alive and giving them the care that they need.

Yes, we face challenges. Yes, we have to address the cost of health care. But Medicare is a success story, and it is something that we should be celebrating every day. That isn't Democrat versus Republican; that is a success story of this body, and let's celebrate that.

With that, I'll yield to my colleague from Oregon.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BERA of California. I genuinely appreciate my colleague from the great State of Oregon sharing these stories and the hard work that you've done on this.

I know I'm coming up on the end of my time, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about Medicare as a doctor and as a son and talk about the success of Medicare. It's something that we should be celebrating.

I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues to hear their stories of how Medicare has impacted their lives, to work with them to strengthen Medicare, to make sure it is there, not only today, but it is there for the next generation and that it is stronger.

We can do this. We know how to do it. Over the coming weeks and the coming months, as we address our challenges, I'll be coming to this floor to share those stories and those ideas of how we move forward as a Nation and how we move forward as Americans making sure we honor the promise that we've made, that after a lifetime of work, after a lifetime paying into a system, that our parents and grandparents, that our seniors can get the care that they need.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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