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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

HEALTH CARE REFORM -- (House of Representatives - July 30, 2009)


Mr. YARMUTH. Mr. Speaker, we are on the verge of something very significant in this body and in this Congress. I am proud to join my colleagues from the Ways and Means Committee here tonight to talk about the prospects of health care reform in this country.

I heard the other day that it was in 1912 that President Teddy Roosevelt first talked about proposing a national health care system for the United States. Today, we're still the only industrialized nation that doesn't have health care for all of its citizens. We believe it's time, almost 100 years later, to try and get this accomplished for the American people.

Now, a little earlier, my colleague from Texas--my colleague, friend and classmate from college--talked about polls that are out this week that indicate that the American people have somehow turned against the President in his quest to provide health care reform in this country. But what he didn't mention was the other part of that poll, which said, once people understand what H.R. 3200 does, they overwhelmingly support it.

There have been a lot of efforts to mischaracterize what this bill does, what our proposal does. Quite frankly, we're in that sausage-making process now. We have three committees in the House that are working on health care reform. We have two committees in the Senate that are trying to accomplish the same thing, and we have a 1,000-page bill. There are thousands and thousands of pages of legislation that are designed to finally build a kind of health care system that is responsive to the needs of the American citizens and, more importantly, that is responsive to the Nation, its future and its economy.

So I'm not surprised that Americans are a little bit uncertain about what we're doing here, because, again, we're still in that process; but I can assure the people watching tonight, the American public, that the battle lines are about to be drawn. This bill is going to come into focus as the final committee of three in our House reports the legislation out. Over the next month, we will take the argument to the American people. We're very confident that, once the American people understand what we're doing and how we're going to improve their situations, they will overwhelmingly support our proposal.

What the American people want--and what my constituents in Louisville, Kentucky want, what the constituents in New Jersey, in Washington, in New York, and in California all want--is basically the same thing: they want security for life in health care for themselves and for their families. If they're going to lose their jobs, if they're going to lose their coverage, if they want to change jobs, if they want to go back to school or if they want to make those important life decisions, they want the stability of insurance so they don't have to worry about whether a preexisting condition or something in their health histories will prevent them from being covered. They won't have to worry about getting sick and about having their policies rescinded, as we've heard much evidence about. Most importantly, they will be able to go to sleep every night knowing that a disease or an illness will not bankrupt them and will not change their standard of living.

These are the things we're about to do for the American people, for ourselves as well, because we know, as the Republicans know, if we accomplish this major, major goal, we will have the everlasting appreciation of the American public. We know that because the Republicans have said it.

We heard a Senator the other day say, Well, if we can defeat health care reform, it will be President Obama's Waterloo. He will be finished.

We know from a Republican consultant, Frank Luntz, of his memo 3 months ago, which states, We cannot afford to let the Democrats succeed on getting health care reform. We have no answer to that, but we've got to stop it at all costs.

That's what they've been trying to do. They've been talking about things that are nowhere in the bill. They've been talking about comparisons with Canada, which, by the way, is the only country in the world that does health care the way they do it. As I asked a witness at one of our hearings in Ways and Means: Other than hockey, what have we ever copied from Canada?

We can do something very special in this country. We can create a unique American solution that will bring choice and competition--the two things that have characterized American society throughout its history--to our health care environment by using choice and competition, by creating a public option for American citizens to participate in that will compete with private insurance companies. We can make private insurance companies better, and we can make health insurance more affordable for every American.

This is our goal. This is what we know that H.R. 3200 will do, and we look forward, over the next month, in taking this argument to the American people, because the case we have is a winning case. The hand we have is a winning hand, and we know that the American people will embrace what we are attempting to do.


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