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Pelosi Remarks at Affordable Care Act Panel

Location: San Francisco, CA

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi hosted a panel highlighting the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. The event featured panelists that explained the impact of the Supreme Court decision and the benefits of the ACA for consumers, small business owners, and providers. Below are the Leader's opening remarks:

"Thank you very much Anna, for your very, very generous words of welcome, for your tremendous leadership here, and for your hospitality, once again, for us to talk about a healthier America in addition to the importance of quality, affordable health care, accessible to many more people. Yes, we were here one year ago, you opened two years ago, right after the passage of the bill, many of us gathered here to say thank you to the nuns for the role that they played and the cheering was uproarious for the nuns on that recognition, but also for the groundbreaking of this center and the groundbreaking took the form of planting seeds for growth for the future. It was so lovely, and now it seems like yesterday.

"Here we are. We've already, thousands of people have already benefited from what we have done. So, congratulations to you. It's an honor to be here with you, with David Chase from the Small Business Majority whom we will be hearing from. Professor Robert Schwartz, Hastings College of the Law, and Catherine Dodd, my friend for many years, [I] have to say.

"Just to have a slightly political moment, this threat has been going on for a very long time, we would not have passed the health care bill had it not been for all of you, who [were] helping us push that, and that after we passed the bill the press said: "which one did you do?' And we said: "well, we pushed open the gate.' Two hundred and twenty strong, we pushed open the gate. But we could not have pushed that gate open without all of you pushing behind us, urging us on, understanding the urgency of the matter, understanding the possibilities of the reform and also just helping us get to that place. And as I have said many times, we could not have possibly done it without each and every one of you. We could not have possibly done it without the nuns. We could not have done it without the President of the United States, Barack Obama. And I would not have been in the Congress were it not for the support of Catherine Dodd and the California Nurses Association over 25 years ago when I ran for office. So, here we are, gathered here today in her capacity with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

"So, this mission of health care has been something which was an issue of the campaign 25 years ago and here we are to celebrate. And I want to especially thank Marvin O'Quinn of Dignity Health for all that Dignity Health has done for a healthier America and to help us pass this legislation. Thank you for all of that leadership. All of your colleagues, and associates, and of course, St. Mary's Hospital today. Thank you.

"More than two years ago, we put forth a vision about a healthier America where we could have better quality care at a lower cost to many more people. With the passage of that legislation, we went down that path. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court upheld the legislation. As I said to Ann and others earlier: "I never had any doubt that we would pass the bill. I had never any doubt that it would be upheld constitutionally because we believed, when we wrote the bill, as we write any bill, that it would measure up to the Constitution. In this case, understanding the scrutiny it would receive, it was ironclad, and we were thrilled that the Court saw it that way.'

"Two days ago, in Washington, D.C., two years, two weeks, two days ago, we heard from people in their everyday lives -- what [we] heard from people in their everyday lives, over and over again, what this bill means to them. We heard from Bill Cea, a retiree from Florida originally from Baltimore, Maryland, who talked about how he was able to [have] lower cost prescription drugs because of the Affordable Care Act. And that's important to him. But also was able to have free preventive and wellness checkups without any co-pay or deductible -- very important to seniors and tens of millions of other people too. We heard from Christine Farley, a woman, a young woman who has two children, one of which was born with cystic fibrosis, and what this bill means to her -- and he would not be discriminated against for a pre-existing condition and will not be subjected to lifetime limits on [the] health care he receives. And it's costly, tens of thousands of dollars a year for a child, hundreds of dollars a day for medication. We heard from Emily Schlichting, who as a young adult with an autoimmune disease, and her costs are exorbitant, now she can be on her family's policy and all the difference that that makes in terms of that policy and lifetime limits and non-discrimination.

"And there's Aracely Rodriguez, who talked about the impact on women, particularly Latina women, was very moving in terms of her presentation. And also we heard from Jamal Lee, a small business owner, and we'll hear more about that from David Chase today, what this means to small business owners. And all of them talked about what they are enjoying and experiencing now. More to come, certainly more to come when the bill is fully implemented. But in the case of small business, nearly 200 people, excuse me, two million people will have access to health insurance because of small business tax credits already in effect. And all of that, I've talked about children, young adults, seniors, women, etcetera, already in place. We'll be hearing more from our experts on the subject. It was important for us, on the day that there was a motion to repeal the bill on the floor, the people heard and listened [to] what it meant to people in their everyday lives. It is very important, you know that 17 million people will have this coverage, not being discriminated against because of a pre-existing medical condition, and that is many of them with diabetes, asthma, leukemia, any other pre-existing condition, and the list goes on. I heard someone on T.V. say about the pre-existing condition: "oh, don't worry about that, that hardly affects anybody, maybe this many people.'

[Leader Pelosi pinches fingers together]

"A hundred million people who are affected by that. And just imagine how many families and policies, just [how] many people are affected. I'm not going to go into some of all of it because we are going to hear from our panel, but also your questions will direct where our focus will be. But I do want to talk about someone who inspired us when [we] were writing our bill. A young mom, her name was Stacie Ritter. She had twin daughters, Hannah and Madeline. At four years old, they were both, the twin daughters, diagnosed with leukemia and faced stem-cell transplants, chemotherapy, total body radiation. Over time, she said: "we ended up bankrupt even though we had full coverage insurance.' Today, Hannah and Madeline are healthy, happy 13 year-olds, who came through it. And according to Staci: "our children now have protections from insurance determination based on their pre-existing cancer condition. They will never have to fear the rescission of their insurance policy. They can look forward to lower insurance rates and preventive care.'

"Some people will be getting rebates from the insurance industry. There's a provision in the bill that talks about medical loss ratio that insurance companies have to spend 80 percent, at least, of the money they collect on meeting the needs of their policy holders -- not CEO compensation and inflated administrative costs. That's why they are coming after us. They spent $200 million putting out a negative message of the bill, misrepresentations, frankly, while the bill was in process. That doesn't count what they spent in the elections, just like what they did in the course of the debate. Now, they're amassing another fortune to, they've already put up millions of dollars to go after the bill again. So, it's really important for people to have the facts and then they will make their decision about it.

"It was interesting to me to see that the court came out before the Fourth of July because it was a perfect way to celebrate the Fourth of July -- freedom, and our country, the Declaration of Independence -- because that's what this bill has always been about, honoring the values of our founders in terms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And that is life, a healthier life; liberty, the freedom to pursue your happiness, to honor your aspirations, your talents, your skills, your passions, to be self-employed if you're a creative person, to start a business, to change jobs and not have your freedom impaired and your career and life decisions based on whether you have a pre-existing condition in your family and you have to be job-logged into a job because of health care, not to be able to contribute your vitality to our economy, our society. Again, your life, your liberty, your pursuit of happiness. So, I thank all of you who made this possible.

"I want to acknowledge Tim Paulson from the San Francisco Labor Council, thank you for all you have done. I could name so many of you in this room, whether its interfaith -- that's the right term right, not ecumenical -- interfaith, Rita Semel. But again, perhaps in the course of questions we can acknowledge the job that all of you have done. But please, take the satisfaction in all you have done for all these children, all these young adults, these women, these seniors, for small businesses, the aspirations of America to continue to be number one. It simply could not have happened without you. Thank you so much, and thank you Annie Cheung for your hospitality."

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