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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Mr. President, six months ago our Nation accomplished something that so many generations before had struggled to achieve. Six months ago yesterday, with the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, our Nation stood up and declared that the health of our citizens is worth fighting for.

There has been a lot of debate, as the Presiding Officer knows, in this Chamber and in the House of Representatives and on the talk shows and talk radio. There is a lot of debate about theories and death panels and health care and preexisting conditions. But behind all of that is human beings in difficult situations. After hearing people say things about this health care law that simply aren't true, it is important to remember how this affects individual human beings.

This legislation began to take effect when, yesterday, several things happened. One is that a 22-year-old who is home from school who just got a job but doesn't have insurance in that job can stay on her parents' health care plan until she turns 27. Small businesses can get tax breaks to insure their employees. Something most small businesses--almost every small businessperson I know--want to do is provide decent, affordable health insurance to their employees. They will be better able to do that because of this bill. Also yesterday, because of this legislation, we saw movement toward the doughnut hole being closed. That simply means that senior citizens, conflicted with very high health care costs, having to choose between medication and heating their home or proper food, cutting their pills in half or having to skip a day in taking it because they couldn't afford it--this bill will begin to close that doughnut hole that President Bush and the Republican Congress created.

We are seeing major progress which affects individual people. Mary from Ashtabula, OH, which is in the northeast corner of the State, shared a story with me about her friend who is paying $56 each month for medications to treat her chronic illness. After the doughnut hole kicks in, she worries that her friend will have to pay literally 10 times that--not $56, which she can handle, but literally $500 per month, which she can't. This increase will catastrophically affect her friend, who is 80 years old and living on a tight budget. Next year, because of this legislation that is taking effect now, Mary's friend will see her prescription drug costs cut in half.

Robert from Cleveland wrote me a letter sharing his concerns about being young and uninsured. As happens to many young adults, Robert was dropped from his mother's insurance on his 21st birthday. He has been unable to obtain full-time employment. He has remained uninsured, not by choice but because he really had no options. In fact, he saw the risks associated with being uninsured firsthand as he accompanied his also uninsured friend to the hospital after sustaining a basketball injury not too long ago. His friend left the emergency room with a $3,000 bill. Robert understands that young adults such as him and his friend will no longer have to face the uncertainty and fear associated with being uninsured.

This legislation also, as of yesterday, allows States such as Ohio and every State in the country to set up what are called high-risk insurance pools. We all know--and the Presiding Officer knows it from talking to people in Rochester and Duluth and St. Paul, and I have talked to people in Toledo and Dayton and Springfield who can't get insurance because they have a preexisting condition. So 462 Ohioans already have signed up for what is called this high-risk insurance pool. That means that even with a preexisting condition, those 462 Ohioans have insurance. Six months ago, they were uninsured and uninsurable. Today, they have insurance.

Laura from Hamilton County wrote to me when she learned about the health care law. She wrote:

I cheered when I learned that children with chronic conditions cannot be denied health insurance coverage. I have a child with Type 1 diabetes. I have worried for years about what will become of him as he ages and moves off our insurance policy. I have worried for years what his health plan options will be. It is a relief to now be able to shift our efforts to battling the disease, not the health care system.

Any mother or father with a sick child wants to focus their efforts on taking care of that illness, not fighting with insurance companies, not worrying about cobbling together payments to pay the doctor, the hospital, and the drug company.

I am proud to say these changes are just the beginning. As of yesterday, when you renew or purchase a health insurance plan, you don't have to worry about lifetime limits. We know what happens: If you get sick, if you live in Akron or Youngstown and you get very sick and spend a lot of time in the hospital, insurance companies--it is called rescission--will simply cancel your insurance because you exceeded the lifetime limits they set up. Well, no more lifetime limits because of this bill.

From now on, recommended preventive services, immunizations, mammograms, and other recommended screenings, will be covered without a copay or deductible. We want people to get screened, to get preventive care. It saves their health, and it saves all of us money. So they can get less expensive health care. For them, taking away their requirement to pay copays and deductibles will make a huge difference.

There are now new restrictions on private insurers from placing unreasonable limits on your coverage. Patients can access out-of-network emergency room services and children can no longer be denied insurance because of a preexisting condition. Think of the parents we talk to who have a child who is sick and can't get insurance because that child has a preexisting condition, as if a parent wanted it that way. Now we have fixed this.

The Presiding Officer was part of this debate, as all of us in this institution were, during last year and the beginning of this year when we passed this bill. We know what the opponents--people speaking mostly on behalf of the insurance industry, the drug industry, and people who just don't agree that we should do something like this--we know what they did. They lied about death panels. They spread half-truths about costs. They even labeled health care reform ``communism.''

They did the same thing with Medicare. I remember the same arguments when I was a kid. I was 12 years old, 13 years old when Medicare passed. They used the same arguments about Medicare. They said: The government is going to stand between you and your doctor. They said: It is going to turn the United States into the Soviet Union. They said: We are never going to be able to get health insurance again. It is going to be big government running our lives. I don't think they say that about Medicare anymore. They have tried to dismantle and privatize Medicare, but they know it has worked.

In the 1930s, these same people with the same philosophy campaigned against Social Security, saying it wouldn't work. In the 1960s, they campaigned against Medicare, saying it wouldn't work. Now they are campaigning against the health care law.

There are Republicans all over this country--not many voters, I don't think--who are talking about repealing the health care law. So what they are going to do is kick the 23-year-old off their parents' insurance. Now they are going to take away these tax breaks for small businesses to insure their employees. They are going to reinstate the doughnut hole. They are going to put more costs back on senior citizens, who finally are getting some help with their drug costs. I don't get it. They are going to bring back preexisting conditions. They are going to say it is OK again to deny somebody coverage for a preexisting condition. I don't think the public is going to buy that. I don't think this institution will vote that way.

It is important to recognize from where we have come. Most of all, it is important to think about individual human beings we have met who are affected so positively by this law. They are going to be able to get insurance. They are not going to be denied coverage if they have a preexisting condition. Businesses will be able to help their employees by covering them for insurance. Senior citizens are going to get significant help for their drug costs. What is not to like about that? That is why it is important that we stand firm as we mark this 6-month beginning of these changes that will make our health care system work better, be more responsive to people, and, most importantly, take care of individual Americans better than ever before.

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