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Public Statements

Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished chairman of the Finance Committee for his work on this bill and the bill the President signed earlier today.

Mr. President, the time has come--historic health care has passed this Congress, the President has signed it into law, and the American people will live healthier, safer, more secure lives because of it. Now we come to the floor again, called upon once more, to finalize this historic legislation and make it even better. Once again I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to take their place on the right side of history and end the obstructionism, stop the fear mongering, the apocalyptic predictions, and think about what they are about to do through the long lens of history.

Think of the legacy you want to leave. Think of your grandchildren. Think of all those who will look back a generation from now, maybe two generations, as we did with Social Security and Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and ask: How did you vote? Think of what you will say then, and think of what you will tell your children and your grandchildren.

Will you look them in the eye and say you stood up for our families against the big insurance companies and voted for one of the greatest pieces of reform legislation in history? That is exactly what this bill will do. It will change the lives of millions of Americans, just as Social Security and Medicare changed the lives of Americans, and thank God they did. Those two pieces of legislation defined who we are as a people and the strength of the American community, each of us working for the betterment of all of us. It is our obligation, it is our duty, it is our call to history to leave a legacy of hope and health security for every American family.

Now, there are those who stood steadfast against Social Security at a time when millions of seniors were facing ruin in this country--when old women were selling apples on street corners, and seniors who had played by the rules and worked hard all their lives found themselves with nothing and no health care at a time in life when they needed it the most. The concept of Social Security and Medicare, as we know, was a long time coming, but it was the right thing to do. It was a Democratic proposal derided by those who used the same arguments then that they are using today against this legislation: Beware, a government takeover, socialism; the insurers will do the right thing.

Well, they have not. The difference between us then and now is that our friends on the other side of the aisle believe the business of government is to protect big insurance companies. But we believe the business of government is about our people--their lives, their hopes, their dreams for a better, safer, healthier, more secure life for themselves and their families. This is the debate on the floor today, just as it was when we debated Social Security, Medicare, and every other major piece of historic legislation that benefitted people over big business.

The health care needs of our families must prevail over what we see on the floor still today--the delay, the obstructionism, the almost irrational fervor to stand in the way of change that is being driven by talk shows and tea partiers in unacceptable outbursts of demeaning language and behavior such as we saw on the steps of the Capitol this past weekend against an American hero such as John Lewis, which will be judged harshly by history.

Let us be clear: Republicans have said no for a century, and once again we hear a resounding no to changing a broken system. I want to say yes. I want to say yes to the people of New Jersey, and let that be our legacy to those we represent. I want to tell the 1.5 million people of New Jersey who are uninsured and the 326,000 who have individual market insurance that they will now have access to affordable health care coverage.

I want to say to the 854,000 New Jerseyans that they will now qualify for tax credits to purchase the health coverage they need and deserve.

I want to say yes to preventive services for 1.3 million seniors in New Jersey who don't have those services today. I want to say yes to the 227,000 seniors in my State who will finally have their drug costs under the Medicare Part D doughnut hole covered over time.

I want to say yes to the tax credits for 107,000 New Jersey small businesses that will be eligible for tax credits to offset their premium costs.

I want to say yes to $14 billion in tax credits and cost-sharing tax credits for New Jerseyans to purchase private health insurance, many for the first time.

I want to say yes to an estimated $9 billion more for Medicaid that New Jersey would receive in this reconciliation bill, which is $580 million more than the original Senate-passed version.

I want to stand and say yes to basic commonsense protections that stop insurance companies from making health care about the bottom line and not the lives of people.

I want to say yes to stopping insurers from denying coverage for preexisting conditions--something that you have no control over, something that happened to you in your health and now stops you from getting health insurance.

I want to say yes to stopping companies from canceling policies when people get sick.

I want to say yes to ending lifetime limits on coverage.

I want to say yes to all of that and leave a legacy of hope to all the families who would benefit from this legislation. Yet it seems the only answer we get from those who have been against this legislation from the beginning is, let's start over. But we are not starting over. It is the law of the land now.

Not only do they want to say no to it, well, they want to repeal it. They want to repeal all of those things. They want to take away those rights that now exist for all Americans as a result of the President's signature. They want to take that away from you. The fact is, hard as it may be for some to realize or accept, Americans voted for change in their lives, change so that they would not have all of these obstacles to the health care of their families and themselves, and that is the change that is being delivered.

Affordable, accessible health care is now the law of the land, and this reconciliation bill makes it even fairer and more affordable for middle-class families. It helps seniors, protects consumers, it eliminates waste and fraud, and it further reduces our national deficit. This bill will eliminate special deals no matter how many times we hear bumper sticker slogans shouted from those who see health care reform in terms of their own political future rather than what is right for America. It makes health care insurance accessible to low- and moderate-income families who never thought they would be able to afford health care for themselves and their children.

It extends the prohibition on dropping people when they get sick and they need it the most and the requirement to provide coverage for nondependent children up to their 26th birthday, starting 6 months after enactment.

It attacks waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid by cracking down on abusive billing practices for hospitalization services, and it strengthens Medicare prepayment reviews to reduce abuses in the system and therefore help build the system.

The time has come once again to be counted. The time has come to take a historic vote once again, to take our place before the lens of history as our predecessors did on Social Security and Medicare and think of what we will tell our grandchildren. History will judge whose side you were on and the legacy we will leave. Voting yes gives young people, such as 24-year-old Christopher Joyce of Old Bridge, NJ, who had no insurance from work and suffered a massive stroke in January that left him paralyzed, barely able to speak, an opportunity to be on their family's policy instead of leaving the family on the verge of losing their home.

Vote yes and never again will a mother and father in America awaken in the middle of the night with a sick child and look at each other knowing they cannot afford the medical care their child needs.

Vote yes and never again will a man, woman or child in America be discriminated against because they are sick or once had something an insurance executive decided was a disqualifying preexisting condition.

Vote yes and never again will an insurance executive be able to make medical decisions instead of a doctor to manage risk for shareholders and hold the bottom line above the lives of people.

Vote yes and Christopher Joyce would have the health insurance he needed to save his family's home.

Vote yes and we will change things for the better for every American family. That is what this bill is all about. It is about a legacy of hope and opportunity and health care security and that is why I will be casting a ``yes'' vote on reconciliation.

I yield the remainder of any time I have and yield the floor.


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