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Public Statements

The Repeal Of Health Care

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. TONKO. Thank you, Representative Welch, for bringing to us the kind of focus that we need to have here on this floor. It is a pleasure to join with our colleagues from Virginia and Connecticut and Texas and Vermont, my neighbor to the immediate east. So thank you for your outstanding work in this capacity.

There's nothing more powerful than the faces that put a real life meaning into the work that we've done here.

Let me talk about a constituent, actually a family of constituents from Albany, New York. Ellena Young is a very young mom and has a 1-year-old son, Liev, and she's a three-time cancer survivor. There's a history of cancer in her family. And in the latter half of 2009, her husband, Bill, testified at our health care forum because his wife was having complications with her pregnancy and required bed rest.

Well, as you can imagine with preexisting conditions, she was in and out of insurance coverage and very often was struggling to find ways that they could get the family covered. Her preexisting condition complicated that severely.

The way she found health care coverage was as a Ph.D. student hooking herself and her family to the university plan.

They were thrilled about the news of the pregnancy. She was in remission. They had all of this hope going for them.

She then developed complications with her pregnancy--situations with malnutrition, severe iron deficiency, and, yes, even blood clots--all of which were life threatening.

Well, you talk about the pharmaceutical needs. She was given prescriptions for 10 different medications, all of which were very important. Representative Welch, she had to choose five of the 10. She tried to pick the five most important, and even then it was an out-of-pocket expenditure of a thousand dollars a month so that she could stay well and stay alive during this pregnancy. And what made it very difficult, as she was working through all of this, was that because of the complications of this pregnancy, her doctors told her that she would need to undergo a C-section.

So now the family is faced with a decision: Do I quit at school where I was earning an income and keep my coverage, or what is my other choice? Because in order to have the surgery, which was going to save her pregnancy and her life, she had to take time off from school, so fell out of the ranks of the insured.

Now, let me just quote from Ellena. As she and her husband debated applying for more student loans or a new credit card, she had this to say: I needed a procedure to save both my life and the life of my baby, and I was choosing between interest rates.

Is that not a powerful statement?

And this is what this reform is all about and why it is so aggravating to see the repeal voted on here in this Chamber today, because the hope that was brought by our bill applied to a case like that of the Young family is a very, very powerful statement.

The Affordable Care Act bans both annual and lifetime expenditure caps. And that health coverage that is limited annually or lifetime is very disrupting and can deny, when you most need health care, it can deny the coverage.

And so with all of this outcome, here's a real-life example where this family, with their 1-year-old child, had to struggle to find the insurance coverage.

But why are we putting people through this sort of difficulty?

And this is not unusual. It's a powerful story. But there are countless episodes, anecdotes that are brought to everyone's attention on this floor. And we're here to be leaders that provide hope and opportunity for the people that we represent. And then to repeal progress just as it begins to reach the very households that we have addressed across this land is a very sad statement. And we have to continue to work to make certain that the beneficiaries, the millions of people who prospered from this sort of activity, are not let down.

I think this is a very important time in our Nation's history for us to use our resources wisely, to respond to the constituents with compassion, and to understand that these real-life stories are exactly that--real and profound and deep and meaningful. And they ought to help us decipher what the best policies are.

And I really thank Ellena and Bill and Liev for the opportunity to share their story. It's a painful story, and they're very generous to allow us to share it here on this floor.

And I thank you again for bringing us together.

The preexisting conditions, the annual and lifetime caps, the filling the doughnut hole for our Nation's seniors so that they can, you know, move forward and live comfortably and maybe even save their lives with the appropriate medication and affordability and accessibility, these are all of the dynamics for which we have fought. And it's a shame that they're being taken away or attempted to be taken away at a time when they're just beginning to have their presence felt.

I thank you for bringing us together tonight.


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