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Public Statements

Affordable Care Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Tonko, thank you so very much. And thank you for beginning this discussion by going back into the history of the United States back to the development of Social Security and the extraordinary benefit that that has brought to not only seniors but to their children, to families, knowing that when retirement age approached--65--there would be a foundation for whatever retirement program a person would have, and also for pointing out that for years now, and certainly in the recent decade, our Republican colleagues have called for the privatization of Social Security.

Now if you trust Wall Street, then I guess it's a good idea. If we had any lesson, we should have had the

lesson of 2008 and 2009, when Wall Street turned its back on the American public and simply ripped us off to a fare-thee-well and nearly collapsed the world economy. Were it not for the efforts of the Obama administration and, frankly, this Congress, it may very well have happened.

And then you pointed out Medicare coming along in 1964, 1965 and the way in which that has protected seniors. I remember as a young child--I think I was probably 7 or 8--my dad took me down to the county hospital to visit one of our neighbor ranchers. I've got to tell you it was horrible. That was the only care available for a senior who had no money. And then Medicare came along, and 60 percent of America's seniors were in poverty prior to Medicare. Now, with Social Security and Medicare, it's somewhere around 10, 15 percent. An enormous boost. Yet twice this House has voted to terminate Medicare. Not the Democrats. Our Republican colleagues twice have voted to terminate Medicare so that every American less than 55 years of age would not receive Medicare. They would be given a voucher and told to go fight as best they could in the private insurance market.

And then today, another major effort by the Democrats to provide health care for all Americans--a health insurance policy that you knew was there, that you could count on, that would be affordable. The 31st time, today, a full repeal or a partial repeal was taken up and passed by our Republican colleagues.

So what's an American to do? What does it mean to Americans? Let's spend some time talking about what this means to Americans if you didn't have Medicare. If you don't have the Affordable Care Act, what would it mean?

I'm going to start, if I might, or would you like to start?


Mr. GARAMENDI. Let me just take up the Patient's Bill of Rights very, very quickly. I was the insurance commissioner in California for 8 years. The insurance industry puts people behind profits. Profits before people. And they're concerned about making sure that they have a healthy group of customers. They don't want sick people. Sick people cost money. So over the years they have developed a whole set of discriminatory practices to exclude from coverage people they don't want to take care of because they might be expensive.

So in the Affordable Care Act there is the Patient's Bill of Rights that forces the insurance companies to end insurance discrimination. And here's just some of them:

Children with preexisting conditions. An example, my chief of staff, his son was covered by insurance the day he was born. The second day of his life they discovered that kid had very serious renal failure; kidney failure. Bam, the insurance was over. That family was off their insurance policy; gone, done. No longer. We're talking about I think 14 million American children that are going to get coverage regardless of what their health circumstances might be.

Young adults. This one is close to home. I've got six children. Every one of them have passed through that age of 21 when they were no longer on our insurance policy. Most recently, my daughter. Twenty-one years of age, covered by an insurance company for 21 years and 9 months. The day of her 21st birthday, off the insurance policy. We're now talking about every young American 21 to 26 stays on their parents' health policy.

She also happens to be a woman. Women are discriminated against in insurance because they have a preexisting condition: They could get pregnant. That's expensive. We don't want to cover them, say the insurance companies. No, no. Under the Patient's Bill of Rights, the discrimination against every woman in America on their insurance policy is over. Apparently, our Republican colleagues don't care about these very, very important efforts to end insurance discrimination.

We can go on here. Seniors. Who among us doesn't have a preexisting condition? High blood pressure, juvenile diabetics, type II diabetes. Try to get insurance without the Affordable Care Act--you're out of luck. You won't get insurance.

So the Patient's Bill of Rights, should today's action become law, is repealed, and along with it, the protections that 315 million Americans presently have--presently have. No more insurance discrimination. The ability to get insurance is guaranteed. No more discrimination.

Yes, I'm a little passionate about this one because I've watched this. I've watched this as insurance commissioner. I fought the insurance companies day in and day out as they denied coverage, as they refused to provide the coverage, as they told people they couldn't get care. But the law is in place now. The law is in place, and it's going to stay in place despite the vote today.

Mr. Tonko, thank you.


Mr. GARAMENDI. Our colleague, Marcy Kaptur, reminded me of a personal story, personal things.

My sister-in-law was a juvenile diabetic, and I think of what would her circumstances be if she had had this law when she was alive. The last 20 years of her life were a struggle. The company she worked for folded, and her health insurance was lost. And she spent the last 20 years of her life struggling financially, medically, and really unable to get the kind of continuity of care necessary. She got a lot of help from her family; but even so, it was a struggle.

Under the law today, she would have been able to get insurance. And in 2014, in California, or actually next year in California, there will be an exchange. So even though she spent those last 20 years as an independent contractor, selling various things over those years, she could enter into a large pool, that is the exchange, where she would have the same opportunity to buy a low-cost policy as though she were in Ford Motor Company with hundreds of thousands of employees.

Our Republican colleagues would abolish the exchanges. And I just think about what could have been. There was no exchange, and she wasn't able to get that insurance; but had she lived, and had other men and women with diabetes or serious heart issues or other kinds of problems, medical problems, they could get insurance in the exchange and be part of a large pool.

Simultaneously, if they didn't have the income, they would be able to get a subsidy. If their income was less than the poverty level, that insurance would be free through the Medicaid program. And if they were above the poverty level, it would be subsidized so that it would be affordable.

I guess this is really about compassion. This is about our very moral sense of who we are as Americans, do we have compassion, and do we care for our fellow citizens.

On today's floor I heard the most astounding arguments, arguments based upon falsehoods, just flat out falsehoods. I heard the Speaker here say that the Affordable Care Act cost employment. But since the Affordable Care Act has been in place for the last 2 years, private sector employment has grown every single month.

Now, there may have been some company that decided not to employ somebody, or maybe they went out of business for any number of reasons. But private sector employment has grown every single month for the last 28 months. So, taken as a whole, the Affordable Health Care Act didn't retard employment. It didn't cause the number of private sector employees to decline. In fact, they've grown.

And I also heard the very same person, with the very same argument, say that it's driven up health care costs. Well, excuse me, take a look at the statistics, the health care statistics. We've actually seen, in the last 2 years, since the Affordable Health Care Act went into effect, a significant decline in the rate of inflation for health care. In fact, the rate of inflation for health care in the last 2 years, 2010 and 2011, was the lowest rate of growth in every year except one in the last 50 years. It was 3.9 percent.

Those are not my statistics. They're not pulled out of the air. Those are government statistics about health care inflation--3.9 percent, which was the lowest rate of inflation in general health care in the last 50 years, except only one other year.

How about the cost of premiums?

Before I get there, the average health care spending in 2000 to 2009 was 6.8
percent per year. That's the annual growth, 6.8 percent per year. In 2010 and 2011, as I just said, it was 3.9 percent, nearly 50 percent less.

Let's get our facts right. Put aside the rhetoric and deal with the facts. If you're going to come down here, as Speaker or anybody else, use facts in your argument. Don't just throw out a number.

Mr. Speaker, if you'd like to debate it on the floor with me, come on down.

Seniors paying more? No, I don't believe so. No, they don't pay more. Medicare Advantage enrollees, the cost of premiums for Medicare Advantage was 16 percent less in 2012 than in 2010. The Affordable Health Care Act, was it responsible for that? Partly, yes, because the Affordable Health Care Act took $150 billion, $15 billion a year, away from the insurance companies and plowed it back into Medicare benefits.

The drug benefit that you were talking about--free medical services, preventative services.

The result was a 16 percent reduction--an overall average--across the United States for Medicare Advantage. Oh, by the way, these are statistics from Mercer, one of the health care consulting companies. I think I'll let it go at that. There are more statistics about that.

Mr. Speaker and my colleagues on the Republican side, if you want to come down and debate the issue of health care inflation, then you'd better come down here with real facts. Don't come down here with a lot of just talk. Health care inflation has gone down since the Affordable Care Act has been put in place.


Mr. GARAMENDI. You are absolutely correct. We really need to get to jobs.

I notice some of our Republican colleagues are here. They'll be taking the next hour, and I suspect they are going to pick up something that was said over and over again over the last 2 days. I just want to put on the table some facts, some facts about what is really going on here.

I heard speakers come to the floor, including the Speaker of the House, saying the Affordable Care Act was the largest middle class tax increase ever. Well, I'm sorry. The Washington Post Fact Checker said the health care law will provide more tax relief than tax burden for middle class families. A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shows that an estimated 4 million individuals will likely pay the penalty because they're not going to buy insurance. Okay? That's about 1.2 percent of the total population.

They also estimated that 16 million Americans--that's four times more--will receive tax credits, or subsidies, to help them pay for insurance coverage through the new exchanges. Now, that's 5 percent of the population. The CBO estimates that the government will provide $630 billion in tax credits and subsidies for insurance over the next 11 years and only $54 billion in penalties--taxes or tax increases--on the middle class.

So the fact of the matter is the middle class is going to get an enormous tax benefit as a result of this. Those who buy insurance are actually going to see their taxes reduced as they buy insurance. They'll have health care coverage at an affordable cost, their taxes will go down, they'll receive subsidies. The essential point here is that it is not a tax increase, the overwhelming, largest-ever on the middle class. In fact, it is a huge tax reduction.

Secondarily, there is a decreased cost to every American who buys health insurance today because there will not be a shift of cost from the uninsured to the insured and to the taxpayer. That's precisely what happens when you have some 40 million Americans uninsured. They get sick. Fortunately, in this Nation, we have not yet come to the point when we do not provide health care to people who are sick and in need of care. They get it at the emergency room, and they get it at the community clinics.

It becomes what is known as uncompensated care. In other words, it is not paid for directly by the individual, but indirectly by every single American that buys a health insurance policy and every company that buys a health insurance policy and the American taxpayers.

The Affordable Health Care Act does not increase the cost of health care in America. In fact, it has the significant potential of decreasing the cost. In the last 2 years, we've seen the health care costs in America decline to the lowest inflation rate ever in the last 50 years except 1 year.

Let's get the facts correct, my colleagues. If we're going to talk about tax increases, get the facts correct. Talk about the tax reductions at the same time. Talk about the fact that the Affordable Health Care Act, in effect, has actually been part of an overall reduction in the inflation rate of health care.

And in the Affordable Health Care Act, there are very significant, long-lasting, and powerful reforms that will bend the cost curve of health care, such as electronic medical records. The repeal would wipe that out. It would be gone.

Primary care clinics across this Nation are funded through the Affordable Health Care Act. Where do you think people get care today? In those clinics. If they don't get care there, they're going to the emergency room at 5 or 10 times the cost.

There are vaccinations for our children, which, incidentally, in the appropriations bill, our Republican friends tried to eliminate many of these vaccinations. Fortunately, it didn't happen.

There is preventive care for seniors so that their blood pressure and diabetes is controlled. Today, our Republican colleagues voted to wipe out preventive care not only for seniors, but beginning this August, a month from now, every woman in America will be able to get preventive screening. Mammograms, pap smears, blood pressure testing. That's what's being lost here, all in the name of some political opportunistic effort to try to run out once again what you thought was successful in the last election period.

Well, the American public isn't going to be fooled twice. The American public will come to know that in the Affordable Health Care Act there is real benefit for Americans.

Mr. Tonko, thank you for bringing us to this floor. Thank you for bringing us the opportunity to talk about what is real.


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