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Public Statements

Medicare for All

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WELCH. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman very much for yielding.

We have the wealthiest country in the world, we have the healthcare system that is the most expensive in the world, and we have more costs and more people not covered than is at all necessary. The fact is, we have had as a goal in this country, since the Presidency of Harry Truman, a goal that all our citizens be covered and have access to healthcare.

And that dream made a solid step forward when Lyndon Baines Johnson was the President and Congress, on a bipartisan basis, passed Medicare, which provided healthcare protection for all Americans 65 and older and provided Medicaid for low-income children and families. We made a second step forward, unfortunately not on a bipartisan basis, with the passage during the Obama administration of the Affordable Care Act. That extended coverage to millions of Americans who otherwise never would have had access to care. It also made some significant improvements in how we deliver care.

We are continuing with that battle. Those are two solid steps forward. Medicare and Medicaid passed in the Johnson administration and the Affordable Care Act during the Obama administration. Yet we are still spending the most on healthcare with outcomes that are not the best and, in fact, in many cases, are not even in the top ten. So we are spending the most and getting the least.

The program for healthcare that has the most popularity in this country among Republicans, among Democrats, and among Independents is Medicare. The reason: all of us pay into the Medicare fund, and then when we are eligible at 65, we are all covered. It is simple. It is not a government-run program. It is financed by taxpayers, and taxpayers are the beneficiaries of that program itself. It makes sense. It has the confidence of the American people.

It also puts us in a position to try to control costs, not at the expense of throwing 24 million people off of the healthcare rolls, which is what would have happened had the repeal of the Affordable Care Act been passed; but by bringing down, for instance, the cost of prescription drugs, where something that was costing $7.50 suddenly cost $1,500 per pill because the owner bought up a company and then had a monopoly power and stuck it to the consumers.

I believe we should strive to get Medicare for every single citizen in this country. Would there be hard questions that we have to address? Sure. There are. But what we have now with this fractured system is young girls who, because they don't have access to healthcare, because the bureaucracy takes so much time to see if she is eligible for Medicaid, or Medi-Cal in the case of this young girl, they don't get access to care, and the tragedy of that situation is that this young woman lost her life.

Had there been healthcare where the parents weren't terrified about what that bill would be, about how they might have to take out a second mortgage, about how they would be bearing the burden of escaping the clutches of bill collectors, that person would have been able to get to a doctor in time to get limited care that would have taken care of what, at that point, was a very limited challenge.

So I thank my colleague (Mr. Ellison) for convening this here tonight. And the goal that I believe we should have in this country is to have a healthcare system where everybody is covered and everybody helps pay for that system and is about affordable, quality care where the emphasis is on the patient and on the taxpayer.

By the way, this is not about making government run the healthcare. That is the important thing to remember. If you are on Medicare or Medicaid or ObamaCare, you get to pick your doctor, you get to pick your hospital. This is about having the security of a system that works for you regardless of your income, regardless of your job status, regardless of your medical situation. It works in all the other industrialized countries of the world; it can work here.

By the way, the cost is starting to kill us. If we don't start dealing with the cost of healthcare, it doesn't matter whether it is the taxpayer who is footing the bill, the employer who is footing the bill on behalf of his or her employees, or the individual trying to reach into his or her pocket to pay. We have got to bring these costs down, and an organized system without a broken market, I think, is the way to go.

Mr. Speaker, I thank Mr. Ellison very much, and I applaud him for his work.


Mr. WELCH. That is really a good question. But that example about that pill going from costing $7.50 to $1,500 means that the owner of that pill--and Martin Shkreli is the guy who did it; he is now in jail--was able to corner the market and then just make people who absolutely have to have that medication pay through the nose, and more than they can afford. That is an example.

We have all of these stops along the way where private profit is the motive. The market is about profit; it is not about having a system that is going to work and be affordable. I think that is a big reason.


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