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Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Mr. President, I thank you for the work you did on this bill that the President signed today to bring costs under control in our health care system, to do what we need to do to insure 32 million people, to provide consumer protections this bill offers, and to give these tax breaks immediately to America's small businesses.
One of the most important components of that is the work you and others in this Chamber did to bring costs down in this health care system, the costs that afflict taxpayers, the costs that afflict small businesses, the costs that afflict, in effect, our ability to compete around the world, and the costs that come directly out of people's pockets, those who have health insurance and those who do not, and the huge burdens of costs. We are finally on a track to do the right thing. I thank the Presiding Officer, the Senator from Rhode Island, Mr. Whitehouse.
I will speak for just a few minutes. I have come to this floor since July, as we voted the health care bill initially out of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, night after night mostly for the last 7 or 8 months, to share letters from Ohioans with my colleagues. There are a couple of things these letters have in common.
In most cases, these letters are written by people who have had significant problems, generally have lost their insurance or are paying so much it is hardly insurance. These letters typically come from people who a year or two ago would have told you they were satisfied with their insurance; they thought it covered what they needed. Then something happened. They either lost their job or lost their insurance or had a child born with a preexisting condition and could not get insurance for her or him or they got very sick and their care was very expensive and the insurance company cut them off or the insurance company realized they were going to be expensive--they perhaps had a preexisting condition and they were getting more expensive--or they were getting older and the insurance company found a way by charging them so much. They could not cancel the insurance, so they thought perhaps they could force the letter writer--the insurer--to cancel the insurance.
The other thing they had in common so often was so many of the letter writers were 60, 61, 62 years old and said: I can't wait until I get on Medicare because I can trust Medicare; I know Medicare is stable; it will be there for me. It is a strong government program, not socialism. Government is simply the insurer. The government has made such a difference in the lives of so many senior citizens because the Medicare Program worked.
As the Presiding Officer knows--just a little history of this institution and this bill--the same arguments that were used this year against this health care bill were used against Medicare in 1965: socialism, government takeover. Back then, it was the John Birch Society. Today, it is the tea parties. They said: A government bureaucrat will get between my doctor and me. It was not true about Medicare; it is not true now.
The public clearly sees through this. That is why this Congress passed this bill, and that is why the President today--and one of the most important things professionally in my lifetime by a long shot, maybe the most important thing as I watched the President of the United States today sign this legislation.
Let me share three or four letters from Ohioans to give you an idea what this bill means to people whom it affects. We on this floor hear the debate and the partisanship and see the obstructionism from the other side, and who is going to win, Republicans or Democrats. The reason we are doing this bill is these letters. That is why it matters. You will see this.
David from northern Ohio:
My best friend's husband is a hemophiliac. He has had a pretty scary life and could be just one bleed away from death or financial ruin. They are about to hit their cap for their employer-provided insurance and have very few choices to seek out other insurance because of his preexisting condition. They have done everything that people should do--they have worked hard, put money aside for retirement, and only used their insurance when it was absolutely necessary. I can't imagine--
She writes about her friend--
the fear they must constantly feel. Please stand firm and remember those whose voices are small individually, but are strong standing together.
Health reform will help families such as David's friend's family because it will get rid of lifetime limits and arbitrary annual caps on benefits. In this case of the man who has hemophilia and his wife, they know if their health care gets too expensive, under the present system or at least the system before today, before the President signed the bill, they know they can lose their insurance if it gets too expensive. They will not have any coverage then. Under this bill, insurance companies simply can no longer do that.
Diane from Cuyahoga County writes:
We have a small business that has been in the family for many years. But after doing well, our situation is precarious because of the high cost of health insurance.
In the last few years, we have continually downgraded our health insurance coverage. We are struggling to pay our health care bills and, of course, have no dental or eye coverage.
Putting children through college, paying health insurance, and trying to keep the business afloat makes life difficult.
That is what has happened with so many small businesses. They struggle to insure themselves and their employees. In one small business, the small business has 10 employees, and if one person gets really sick and it is very expensive--cancer or something else--that company so often has to cancel their insurance simply because they cannot afford it, and their employees, even though they were not very sick, lose out.
In so many cases, as Diane points out, the insurance people do have has more and more holes in it. She said: We continually downgraded our health insurance.
This bill, starting tomorrow--the President signed it today--will help by offering small businesses tax credits so employers can offer coverage to their employees. This is the first major impact this bill will have.
This bill will take a while because we want to implement it correctly and quickly enough to help people but not so quickly that we will make significant mistakes.
The first thing this bill does is provide tax incentives to small businesses, such as Diane's, so they can actually write good insurance policies for themselves if they are self-employed and for themselves if they have a business, and with their employees.
The last letter I will share is from Cynthia from Hocking County, Logan, OH, southeast of Columbus:
My son-in-law is 40 years old with a serious medical condition that makes it extremely difficult to get around. My daughter is 42 years old and on disability. .....
Neither of them can work and make supplemental income. They have to spend so much on medication that they are not able to pay their house payments and may have to file for bankruptcy. They also have a 16-year-old son to support. Who doesn't want to send their child to college and help him have a better life? But where will that money come from if they can't pay the bills now?
Please continue to fight for the middle and lower middle class families who insist that we be treated fairly and with dignity. We just want good insurance like lawmakers in Washington have.
This plan with the insurance exchange was based on the Federal employee plan that most Senators and Congressmen have, that most Federal employees have. This bill will provide for those who are lower income than we are, significantly lower income than we are, for people who are making $10,000, $20,000, or $30,000, or $50,000 a year, even a little more than that. It will provide them with subsidies so they can afford health insurance. We want everybody to be insured.
We know right now that every American who has insurance pays about $1,000 extra--a tax for all intents and purposes--pays $1,000 extra to pay for the care of people who don't have insurance and go to the hospital. Somebody has to pay for that. It is being spread around to everybody who has insurance. That extra $1,000 will no longer happen to any significant degree because as everybody in this country or almost everybody gets insurance, people will be paying for themselves. They will get subsidies with their low income. If they have a little more money than that, they will pay everything themselves. That is why this legislation makes so much sense.
Today, we saw the President of the United States move this country forward--tax breaks for small businesses, no more preexisting conditions for a child, no more exclusions to keep a family from getting insurance. If your 22-year-old son or daughter comes home from college and cannot get a job with insurance, that daughter or son can stay on the insurance plan of their parents until they are 26.
There are a whole lot of important things. Senior citizens, starting next year, will be able to get a physical every year without a copay, making sure our senior population stays healthier longer. We begin to close the doughnut hole so seniors, with the bill that was passed a few years ago that gave the drug companies a whole lot more money than it helped seniors--at least we are fixing that bill so seniors will see that doughnut hole closed. All of those things are part of the legislation in the next year or so as it takes effect.
This is the right thing for our country. It is an honor and a privilege to represent Ohio and to have an opportunity to vote for this legislation and to push it to work for public health.
If we look back, President Truman, when he spoke to the Congress in 1946, spoke about the importance of health care. Now 65 years later and 10 Presidents later, it has happened. It is a good day for our country, and we celebrate that. Most importantly, it gives people such as Cynthia from Hocking County, Diane, the business owner in Cleveland, and David in northern Ohio the opportunity to get on with their lives in a much more workable, practical, happier way.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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