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Public Statements

Affordable Care Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I thank my friend and colleague from Connecticut for his passion and his wonderful advocacy for people who just want to know they have health care for themselves and their families, which is pretty basic. I thank Senator Murphy for his vigilance, for speaking out and being here and talking about what is at stake.

There is an ad on TV which says something like: New car, $30,000; new house, $150,000; peace of mind, priceless. What we are talking about in terms of access to affordable health care, getting what you are paying for, knowing you can't get dropped just because you get sick, knowing your child with juvenile diabetes can get care even though it would be viewed as a preexisting condition, is peace of mind.

I can't imagine how scary it must be to sit in a doctor's office and have a doctor come in and say: You have cancer. You have leukemia. You have breast cancer. This is happening to people every single day, and there are many thoughts going through their minds at that time. At some point they will turn to the doctor and want to talk about: What kind of treatment do I need? Is it going to be covered? How do I get it? What is going to happen?

One in every eight women in America will develop invasive breast cancer during their lives. It is not a statistic. These are real women, such as my sister-in-law, such as many other people I know. They are our daughters, our sisters, our mothers. Men as well are being given diagnoses of breast cancer--our friends. They now have the peace of mind of knowing they are going to be able to get the care they need at an affordable price and they can't be dropped. There is no cap on how long they are going to be able to get treatment, and that is priceless.

I will share a true story about a cancer survivor whose life has been changed thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Her name is Chris G.

Chris found a lump in her breast. Every woman can imagine the thoughts which must have gone through Chris's mind. The fear must have been unimaginable. It was even worse for Chris because her husband lost his job and they didn't have insurance--the worst of all possible situations. Because she didn't have insurance, she couldn't see a doctor to get the tests she needed. Chris didn't ignore her lump. You can't ignore something like that. It is on your mind every single minute of every single day. But at that moment she didn't feel she could do anything about it because without insurance, if Chris went to a doctor, her breast cancer of course would count as a preexisting condition and then she would never be able to get insurance.

But now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Chris and millions of women like her can get the affordable insurance they need, and marketplaces where insurance companies now have to compete for her business give their best price for her business. These are good policies which cover treatment women need to beat cancer and survive. But before the Affordable Care Act, cancer would haunt these women for the rest of their lives as insurance companies labeled their survival a preexisting condition--no more.

Thanks to the ACA, millions of cancer survivors similar to Chris have peace of mind--priceless. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of women have access to mammograms and other preventive services. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of women similar to Chris will never have to worry about annual or lifetime limits on their coverage, not being told: OK, cancer. You have eight visits. That is it. I hope it works. That is it. No more.

In fact, the ACA flips that around. It says cancer patients such as Chris will never be asked to spend more than a set amount of money in total on their treatment. Once they hit that number, the insurance company has to pick up the rest of the cost of the treatments. For women fighting cancer, this law is a lifesaver.

There are 7,000 women in my State of Michigan alone who will be newly diagnosed with breast cancer this year. This is why it is so important for women to get covered, to sign up before March 31, so they can have the health care they need this year. This is literally a lifesaving day on March 31.

Once you are covered, you get no-cost preventive services. So you can go in, get the checkup, get the mammogram, get other cancer screenings, and not have out-of-pocket costs. You get again the peace of mind of knowing you are not going to go broke because of health care. Even if you get diagnosed with cancer, it is not: Do I get the treatments I need for breast cancer or do I have a home for my family? Do I go bankrupt or do I try to survive through treatments? Those are not the choices available to women and families anymore, and there is access to your doctor instead of using the emergency room.

One of the fallacies of health care reform is this idea of somehow we ignore when people get sick and somehow we don't pay for it. Yet we all know people who don't have insurance use emergency rooms. I think it is interesting to note there is a proposal, in Georgia, where the Governor has said: The way to fix the problem with emergency rooms is to say you don't have to treat people. That is one way to do it, to say we are not going to treat people who are sick, who are in a car accident or have a heart attack.

The other way is through the Affordable Care Act, where we say: Instead of people using emergency rooms without insurance and then shifting all the costs onto everybody with insurance--which is what happens now--we pay for it. We all pay for it. Instead of that happening, we will set up a way for people to take personal responsibility for their health care and create a way to make it as affordable and competitive as possible. Then people will be able to go to their doctor instead of the emergency room and be able to get the treatment they need on an ongoing basis.

As women such as Chris can attest, cancer sneaks up on you. You can't predict it. You can't avoid it. This is not one of those events where you can say just buck it up and don't get cancer. We don't want those costs, so just don't get sick.

We all know how ridiculous that is. Yet in some ways this is sort of what we keep hearing in some fashion.

The reality is you can't predict it. You can't avoid it. The only thing you can do is survive it, which millions of women are now doing who have access to the treatments and health care they need. This is why this new health care reform law is so important.

It is two things. It is health insurance reform, making sure those of us who have insurance are getting what we are paying for--as we have said before, can't get dropped, don't put artificial limits on the number of treatments. So it is insurance reform, so you are getting what you are paying for--what you thought you were paying for.

It is also creating a way for more affordable insurance by creating a marketplace where insurance companies then have to bid for your business and provide you the best bed possible. We have competition to bring the costs down. I know for Chris, I know for women in my own family, and I know for people across Michigan, the peace of mind that comes with that is, in fact, priceless.

The debate on the other side is about taking that all away--not making it better, not fixing it. Medicare over the year has been improved. Medicaid has been improved. Social Security has been improved. Everything that is worth doing gets started and then has to be worked on to get improved. We are committed to doing that. But there are 50 votes now happening in the House to take it all away and to go back to saying good luck. If you are a woman, good luck. By the way, being a woman is probably viewed as being a preexisting condition. Trying to find insurance? Good luck. Good luck trying to get what you need from the insurance companies. Peace of mind is worth fighting for, and that is what the Affordable Care Act is all about.

I yield the floor.


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