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Senate Amendments To H.R. 3590, Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009, And H.R. 4872, Health Care And Education Reconciliation Act Of 2010--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Speaker, throughout my career of public service, there have been a few critical challenges that have remained at the top of my priority list; protecting our coal miners and our coal jobs and the need to provide our people with access to affordable, quality health care.

Across southern West Virginia, especially in rural areas where senior populations are high, that challenge has been particularly daunting, because so many health insurance companies have been increasingly putting high profit margins above all else, even the compassionate treatment of the sick and the elderly.

I have consistently spoken out against the abuses of and mistreatment by huge, for-profit health insurance companies. And I have advocated for competition, recognizing that it is good for consumers and drives down prices for all buyers, while driving up quality of service.

At the same time, I have consistently stood against the use of federal funds to pay for abortions--a stand I took again when I worked to have anti-abortion language included in the original House-passed health care bill. That was, in fact, one of many issues that I heard a lot about from West Virginians in recent months and that I successfully pressed to have addressed in the House bill.

With the Executive Order strengthening the life protections in this bill, we have achieved a firm anchor for the protection of life in this country, reflecting the principles of the Hyde Amendment, no federal funding for abortions. Administrative chipping away and mischief will be held at bay with this order throughout this administration. Future administrations should be held to this standard.

Health care is a deeply personal issue for all Americans. But it is also true that there are no people in the world more personally generous than Americans when it comes to helping the ill and the injured.

I understand people's frustrations and concerns over coal, jobs, our economy. The rhetoric about health care this year has been emotional, at times angry, and, ultimately divisive. Much of the legitimate debate has been undermined by millions of dollars in advertising, underwritten by massive health insurance companies interested only in protecting their record profits and lucrative salaries. The result has been a polarized public and a polarized Congress.

But underlying the most contentious, most calculatingly advertised issues, there can be found common ground. Certainly the status quo--where honest, hardworking parents are forced into bankruptcy to afford lifesaving treatments for their child and where longtime, loyal workers lose their health care coverage along with their jobs during tough economic times--does not comport with American values.

One of my constituents, Fred Long, is a Vietnam veteran and a proud West Virginian who has long had private health insurance. Fred, blessed with good health, needed his insurance little until he was 63 years old when he had to have cataracts removed from both eyes.

Fred's brother was born with cerebral palsy. His problems were covered by SSI and Medicaid. He, too, had cataracts removed, but because of Medicaid, it did not cost his family a dime.

The two brothers had the same procedure, used the same hospital, and same doctor, yet Fred's surgery cost him $3,099.36 despite Fred's $480 a month health insurance premiums.

Mr. Long closed his letter to me with this:

``..... how many thousands of dollars have been paid in insurance premiums over the years ..... I don't know if this will be of any help in changing the thinking of those that can't see where national health care would benefit the working man.

``The insurance companies could have done this, collected from those that weren't sick and paid the heath care cost for those that were sick, just like the government helped my brother when he needed it. He is on Medicare now and I just hope I can get by the next few years when I can sign up for Medicare. (Sincerely, Fred Long)''

Mr. Long's personal story echoes so many others I have heard from all across southern West Virginia--this is just one of the reasons I believe health care reform is necessary.

We must end the polarization of America and find that common ground for the common good. The health care system as it currently exists is not sustainable for the long-term and this Nation has a host of serious challenges that cry out for attention--jobs for our people, renewed transportation funding for our highways, expansion of our technology, and diversification of our economy.

Unfortunately, as long as the needs of the people can be subverted by special interests, financed by donors who operate in secrecy without any accountability to the American public, I worry that we will see little more than the same polarization that has dominated this Nation for months.

Free speech is a wonderful American right that must be protected. But much of the speech we have been witnessing of late has been anything but free. It has been well-financed by special interests whose hands are in the pockets of political operatives, and their motivation is not the preservation of health care for our citizens, but, instead, the preservation of power for themselves. Worse still, to the degree that these operatives are able to bend government to suit their own purposes, you can be sure that others will line up to use the same tactics for their own good.

This is bad for West Virginia. And it is bad for our Nation.

Throughout my years of hard work for the people of West Virginia, I have worked with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike, always focused on the needs of southern West Virginia and the Nation. In all that time, I have used my experience, honesty, and integrity to sustain jobs for our coal miners, to ensure their health and safety and that of their homes and their families. I have fought to expand our job base and to build improved infrastructure, to advance technology, ensure veterans care, improve education, and protect our God-given natural resources, including the unborn.

Today, I call for an end to the polarization. We must put away our personal interests, set aside our differences, and do the People's work. We must come together for the common good, using common sense.


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