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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, first I thank the Senator from Connecticut for his advocacy for seniors, children, families, and small businesses to have access to affordable and quality health insurance. He has been a powerful voice on this issue.
I also congratulate his State of Connecticut and the Governor of Connecticut for all of their hard work. I know they are doing a great job on their insurance pool--the health care exchange which is providing more affordable health insurance for the citizens in Connecticut.
I thank the Senator for his leadership.
I also rise today to talk about the fact that millions of American families today have access to more affordable health care. Seniors, children, small businesses, and others are getting the opportunity to have the health care they are paying for and know they can get the health care they need even if they have a preexisting condition because of the Affordable Care Act.
I will take a few moments to talk about what this means for our senior citizens--for people on Medicare. Obviously, Medicare is a great American success story and something that I strongly support, as do my colleagues who are speaking today.
As part of health care reform, we wanted to strengthen Medicare for the future. We protect the guaranteed benefits under Medicare. We have shored up the program so that the trust fund is now solvent until 2026 and will be so going forward as other savings occur over the long run. It is working because of some very tangible work we have done to put more money in the pockets of our senior citizens and to create the opportunity for them to have access to affordable health care.
I often think about the letters and emails I have received from people in Michigan prior to our passing health care reform and the kinds of stories that people told me all the time before we strengthened Medicare.
I will read one letter from a senior citizen from Warren, MI, who wrote to me a letter prior to health care reform talking about the gap in coverage in prescription drugs. Under Medicare Part-D, you are covered to a certain point, and then there is a gap and you get no help. Then if your prescription drug costs are very high, it kicks in again. Some people call that the doughnut hole. It is a gap in coverage.
A senior from Warren told me this:
I cannot afford all of my costly drugs so I have to stop taking one of them (the least risky one) and have to scrounge free samples from my doctor's office for another while paying high retail prices for the other two.
That was before we passed health reform. Now on average in our country, seniors have $1,200 more in their pocket since we passed health care reform which helps them with their prescription drug costs. Why? Because we are closing that gap. That gap is going to go away. There is going to be no more cliff, no more doughnut hole, and no more gap in coverage. Right now seniors across the country are saving, on average, $1,200, which is more money back in their pocket.
When we think about it in big terms, there are more than 7.3 million seniors and people with disabilities who are on Medicare who found themselves in that gap in coverage, and the health care reform law--in the big picture--has saved them about $9 billion--on average $1,200 for an individual, but all total so far about $9 billion. That is $9 billion more available to seniors, which puts money back in their pocket--to do what?
Well, to pay the rent, to pay the electric bill. In a State such as Michigan, to pay the high heating bills because of the winter we have been having; to put gas in the car. Maybe it is to do something fun with the grandkids and pay for that birthday present. Maybe it is doing something else that is needed. Whatever it is, the idea is the average person who is retired and on Medicare has over $1,000 back in their pocket now because of health reform and what we have been able to do to strengthen Medicare. It is a great thing.
The problem is that is what Republicans want to take away. That is what they want to take away. That is what will be taken away if it is repealed; if one of the over 40 different repeal votes were actually to happen, and what the House of Representatives has already done.
Let me share another letter from Mary Ann from Rockford who wrote last fall to say she is sick of the efforts to repeal health care reform. She says:
The Affordable Care Act has already helped millions of seniors like myself. From free preventive services to lower-cost prescription drugs, we're saving money.
We are saving money.
Let me talk about another area where seniors are saving money, and that is the annual checkup. We always want folks to have the annual checkup. That checkup used to have copays and deductibles. Today, under Medicare, because of health reform, when a senior walks into a doctor's office, how much are they paying for that annual checkup? Zero. Zero, because of health reform. We don't want any seniors to feel they can't get that checkup, they can't get the mammogram they need, they can't get that lovely colonoscopy we all look forward to getting. We don't want our seniors to feel they can't get any other kinds of preventive care or cancer screens or flu shots, or whatever it is, because of the copays or deductibles. Today the cost of that checkup for preventive services is zero. If health reform is repealed, that is repealed. That is what folks who want repeal are doing; it is what they want to take away.
So I join with my colleagues who feel strongly that we need to make sure we are keeping in place those positives that are making a real difference in the lives of senior citizens, of children, of families. If there are areas going forward that need to be fixed, we need to fix them, and we will. But we certainly do not want to go back to the days when seniors are spending $1,200 more out of their pocket for their medicine, on average, or when they are paying for the cost of an annual checkup that is absolutely critical they get for their life going forward. I am proud to stand with colleagues saying let's talk together about how we make sure things work going forward, but let's not go back to the time when all of these important services and protections were not in place.
I yield the floor.
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