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House Democrats announce health-care bill

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Thursday, October 29, 2009; 12:18 PM

SPEAKERS: REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE; REP. STENY H. HOYER (D-MD.), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER; REP. JAMES E. CLYBURN (D-S.C.), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP; REP. CAROL SHEA-PORTER (D-N.H.); REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA.); REP. MARY JO KILROY (D-OHIO); REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D-OHIO); REP. KATHY DAHLKEMPER (D-PA.); REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D-CALIF.); REP. JOHN D. DINGELL (D-MICH.)

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PELOSI: Good morning. Good morning.

It is with great pride and with great humility that we come before you to follow in the footsteps of those who gave our country Social Security and then Medicare and now universal, quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

We are brought to this historic moment for our nation and our families because of the work of our three great chairmen of the committees in House. Chairman Charlie Rangel of Ways and Means.

Thank you, Mr. Rangel.

(APPLAUSE)

Chairman Henry Waxman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

(APPLAUSE)

And I think that George Mitchell -- George Miller has a hearing, Chairman George Miller has a hearing, as do some of our other chairs and other members. They're in hearings because the work of Congress does not stop just because we have an important message to give to you.

But I am very grateful for the cross-section of members that we have -- generationally, geographically, philosophically, in every way, from all of the committees of jurisdiction that worked on this legislation and also members of the caucus who participated over and over again under the leadership of our chairman, John Larson, and our vice chair, Xavier Becerra.

So here we are. For nearly a century -- it's really over a century -- leaders of all political parties, starting over a century ago with President Theodore Roosevelt, have called and fought for health care and health insurance reform.

Today we are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable, quality health care available for all Americans, laying the foundation for a brighter future for generations to come.

(APPLAUSE)

The Affordable Health Care for America Act is founded on key principles of American success: opportunity, choice, competition and innovation. We have listened to the American people, we are putting forth a bill that reflects our best values and addresses our greatest challenges. And we are putting it online for all Americans to see.

Here's what our health insurance reform legislation will mean to American families, workers and the economy.

PELOSI: Thank you, insurance companies of America.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

This is why this legislation is important: affordability for our middle class. It lowers costs for every patient, reins in premiums, copays and deductibles, limits out-of-pocket costs, and lifts the cap on what insurance companies cover each year.

Affordability for the middle class, security for (inaudible) seniors: by strengthening Medicare secures the financial stability and solvency of Medicare for years to come, provides seniors with better benefits and guaranteed access to their doctors.

And in this legislation, we will immediately begin to close the doughnut hole.

(APPLAUSE)

Affordability to the middle class, security for our seniors, responsibility to our children. It reduces the deficit, meets President Obama's call to keep the cost under $900 billion over 10 years, and it insures 36 million more Americans -- 36 million more.

(APPLAUSE)

As I said, the bill is fiscally sound, will not add one dime to the deficit, as it expands coverage, implements key insurance reforms and promotes prevention and wellness across the health system.

The bill will expand coverage, including a public option to boost choice and competition in the health insurance reform (sic).

(APPLAUSE)

It covers 96 percent of all Americans, and it puts affordable coverage in reach for millions of uninsured and underinsured families, lowering health care costs for all of us.

(APPLAUSE)

One other very important feature is that it will end discrimination for preexisting medical conditions.

(APPLAUSE)

PELOSI: It opens doors to quality medical care to those who are shut out of the system for far too long.

And because of the work of our members and -- meetings across the country, we know that prevention and wellness are an important part of this legislation. It puts a major new emphasis on preventative care, expands access to screenings and other treatments to keep Americans healthy and promote workplace wellness.

The drive for health care reform is moving forward. The Affordable Health Care Act will ensure, again, affordability for the middle class, security for our seniors, and responsibility to our children.

As we consider -- continue to move through the legislative process, it is critical to remember what this means to the American people. Today we will hear stories that serve as our inspiration. We will listen to people whose hopes are our motives for action.

Our president has said our success will be -- our progress will be measured by the success of America's families in making progress for themselves. And so these stories are a place that need our attention, will have our action, and we look forward to hearing them.

I have -- we are very proud of the work of everyone in our caucus and all the staff that's been extraordinary. The public's input has been absolutely necessary.

But a key player from the start, working with our three chairmen, coordinating that effort so that we would arrive at something historic, something that changes the way business is done in Washington, D.C., by having these three committees work together and come together with a bill to make significant change for the better for the American people -- it simply would not have been possible without the extraordinary leadership of our great majority leader, Steny Hoyer.

(APPLAUSE)

HOYER: What a day. What a day for America and what a day for all of our people.

HOYER: This day would not have happened had it not been for the indefatigable leadership and focus and work of the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

(APPLAUSE)

Today, we are one step further on a long, hard road: the road to bring quality, affordable health care to every one of our fellow citizens. But in this Congress, we're here to introduce a new health insurance reform bill, thanks to the commitment to this cause shared by every member of our caucus.

I told members of the press and the public over and over and over again there is not one member of our caucus, from every region of the country, who did not say to us, "We need to adopt health care reform. For Americans struggling with the cost of health care, this is an urgently needed bill."

But befitting the importance of this legislation, the process of putting it together has been deliberative, transparent and open; the most deliberative, transparent and open process I have seen for any bill in my 29-year career.

We have held over 100 hearings on health care since 2007. This year alone, under the leadership of the chairman of our caucus, John Larson, we've held close to 3,000 health care events in our districts in every part of our country.

Three committees have spent 160 hours of hearings under the leadership of Charlie Rangel, Henry Waxman and George Miller. Markups on health care legislation have been held openly with all types of amendments offered and discussed.

HOYER: Much of the legislation that's being announced today has been available for review and comment for over three months online so that every American could read it and give us their input. And the members of the Democratic Caucus have listened to our public.

And, yes, we're here at a historic time, when for over half a century a family elected by their citizens to come to this Congress have raised the banner of health care for all that they could afford. I want to congratulate my friend, the principal sponsor of this legislation, John Dingell of Michigan.

(APPLAUSE)

We will keep our promise and commitment to the integrity of this process by making the bill's full text, which will be online, as the speaker said, as we speak, and the manager's amendment, to make sure we have this exactly right, publicly available for 72 hours before the members are asked to vote, and by ensuring a full floor debate.

Health insurance reform has come through all that scrutiny and debate a stronger, better bill because this is an idea whose time has come, this is an idea that we will enact, this is an idea that will lift up all Americans and give them the affordable, quality health care that they can count on.

(APPLAUSE)

We know that seniors in America are particularly concerned with health care. I'm one of those seniors.

(LAUGHTER)

HOYER: Don't tell anybody, please.

Here to talk about seniors being advantaged by the passage of this bill is my good friend, a member of the Education and Labor Committee -- deeply involved in the fashioning of this bill -- the gentlelady from New Hampshire, Carol Shea-Porter.

Carol?

(APPLAUSE)

SHEA-PORTER: Good morning.

I'm very pleased to have a senior with me from the great state of New Hampshire. Priscilla King and her husband Bernie have been hurt by the Medicare Part D prescription drug doughnut hole. And so I'm honored to introduce her to tell her story.

Can you please come up, Priscilla?

And thank you for being here.

(APPLAUSE)

PRISCILLA KING: My name is Priscilla King. I am 70 years old, and a member of the Alliance for Retired Americans from Bow, New Hampshire.

My husband, Bernie, and I have been struggling for years to afford our prescription drugs. Between the two of us we must take 13 different medications each day, sometimes two or three times a day.

We live on Social Security, and after all the bills are paid, we have less than $100 each week for food and gas and everything else.

I am proud that my state's representative, Carol Shea-Porter, is helping to make prescription drugs more affordable, and by closing the Medicare doughnut hole.

(APPLAUSE)

We have gone into debt because of the times we have fallen into the doughnut hole. I think it's wrong that when you're in the doughnut hole you must keep paying your premiums but get no benefits in return.

Can you imagine buying a meal at a restaurant but only getting an empty plate?

I want to thank Speaker Pelosi, Representative Carol Shea-Porter and everyone here for standing up for seniors in closing the doughnut hole. American seniors need help more than the big insurance companies do.

KING: We must pass this bill right away.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

SHEA-PORTER: Thank you very much, Priscilla.

And I've worked with senior citizens for many years, and her story was all too familiar.

Millions of our seniors are affected by the prescription drug doughnut hole, a coverage gap which affects roughly one in six Medicare Part D enrollees. This gap exists between the thresholds where standard benefits run out, at $2,700, but before catastrophic coverage is triggered, at $6,200.

This health care bill will change that. The Affordable Health Care for America Act begins closing the Part D doughnut hole on January 1st, 2010, and will completely close it by 2019. The doughnut hole will be reduced by $500 in 2010.

Our seniors who do fall within the doughnut hole will also benefit from a new 50 percent discount on their name-brand drugs. This will put money back into the pockets of the millions of seniors who have been unfairly affected, and in Priscilla and Bernie's case, help them afford the medications their doctor thinks are best.

But that's just for starters. This bill improves primary care for seniors, ensuring our seniors have access to and can spend more time with their primary care doctor, and making sure their care is better coordinated to ensure our seniors get recommended treatments, particularly for chronic diseases.

As Priscilla has testified today, doing nothing to help improve Medicare is the scariest option of all, and America's seniors understand that.

SHEA-PORTER: I am now pleased to introduce Congressman Connolly from Virginia.

(APPLAUSE)

HOYER: Gerry! Gerry!

CONNOLLY: (inaudible) one of the big challenges of health care in the United States in terms of affordability and even access has to do with the many, many small businesses in America that no longer can provide health care for their employees.

As recently as 10 years ago, over 60 percent of our small businesses in fact provided health care for their employees. That percentage is now down to 40 percent. And if we do nothing, that's going to go even lower, leaving millions of Americans working for small business, the engine of employment growth in America, stranded and without health care coverage.

I am pleased today to introduce Dan Sherry. Dan is a small- business owner with an engraving company in suburban Chicago, in Illinois. And he -- he is going to tell his story both about the issue of affordability for him and his eight employees, but also the issue of access and the capriciousness of insurance companies in denying access to health care.

Please give a warm welcome to Dan Sherry.

(APPLAUSE)

DAN SHERRY: Madam Speaker, thank you very much for inviting me to participate in this historic event.

As you know, health care reform is absolutely essential for America's small businesses.

I own an engraving company a little outside of Chicago, a second- generation family business. I've never been able to afford health care for my employees, and even for my family, after paying into the system for 20 years, we got a large order one summer. It was a hectic summer and I missed a health insurance premium payment: the first time in 20 years.

My insurance company cut me off. They said I have to reapply. Well, that turned my high cholesterol into a preexisting condition, and I'm uninsurable. And if any of you here understand what that means, after the shock wore off, I looked at my options and I realized the only way I could protect my family from a disaster -- I'm mortal; I'm going to have a health event sooner or later -- would be to divorce my wife of 22 years, give her the business, and give her my house. And that's not right, not in America.

That's where I was a year ago, and that's why I'm here today. The legislation being introduced today is critical for me and small- business owners across America, to be able to protect our businesses, our employees, and our families from the threat of crippling health expenses.

SHERRY: This bill will eliminate exclusions based on preexisting conditions and other underwriting practices that make insurance unaffordable and unacsible (ph) for us.

By creating a health insurance exchange that includes a choice of a strong public health option, this bill will provide access to affordable, comprehensive coverage.

Most small businesses will be exempt from any requirement to cover -- offer coverage, but the fact of the matter is, we want to offer coverage. It's the right thing to do, and it's important for us to be able to be competitive with companies that do offer it.

The tax incentives in this bill will help us get that good, affordable coverage.

For my business to continue to grow and be competitive, it's important for me to be able to offer health care for my employees. They're like family to me, like most small-business owners, and I have a responsibility to make sure they have the health care they need.

That's why I'm so proud to have the opportunity to stand here today and express my strong support for this landmark legislation and my gratitude to Madam Speaker and to all the other members for what you've done.

America's small business needs Congress to pass this legislation to make health care work for us. That's what we need now.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CONNOLLY: Thank you, Dan. And thank you for your -- sharing your story.

You've just heard about the struggle of one small-business owner to afford health insurance for its employees. Subject to outrageous premium increases and capricious decision-making by insurance company, hardworking Americans like Dan across the country are either unable to provide such coverage because of the cost or sinking under the weight of rising premiums.

In the last 10 years, premiums for small businesses in America have more than doubled, increasing by 129 percent. Small businesses need health care reform. As Dan said, they need it now. The Affordable Health Care for America Act allows small businesses to participate in health insurance exchanges, giving them the benefits of large group rates, lower costs, and many more choices. It raises the thresholds on the income surcharge to $500,000 for individuals and a million for families, something we freshmen members of Congress worked awfully hard to get in the bill. And I want to thank the speaker for her help and assistance in making that happen.

(APPLAUSE)

CONNOLLY: It provides tax credits to help small businesses afford to provide health insurance coverage for their employees. And as Dan said, for so many small-business owners in this country, their employees are like members of their family. They want to do the right thing. They want to provide this benefit to their employees.

It now gives me great pleasure to introduce one of the great leading lights in this United States Congress, our thoughtful and articulate leader, our majority whip, James Clyburn of South Carolina.

(APPLAUSE)

CLYBURN: Thank you. Thank you very much, Congressman Connolly.

Passing meaningful health reform is a very personal issue for all of us. Everyone here knows someone who has struggled to get adequate health care or who has suffered discrimination because of a chronic illness or disease: so called preexisting condition. We want to make those realities a thing of the past.

One person, whose personal health care experience, brought her from Columbus, Ohio, straight to the United States House of Representatives -- she's here with us today, a leader with a long history as a community advocate on health care, a friend, our colleague, Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy.

(APPLAUSE)

KILROY: Thank you, everybody, thank you.

I want to thank Mr. Clyburn. I want to thank all of the Democratic leadership, particularly Speaker Pelosi, thank the committee chairs, for bringing us to this day, a huge step closer to providing health care that is affordable and accessible to all Americans.

And as you heard, for me this is personal. As Mr. Clyburn said, it is personal for many Americans.

As many of you may know, I've been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And I've been lucky because I've had the benefit of health insurance.

KILROY: Because of those group plans, I've been able to afford the medications that delay the onset of disability and slow down the progress of this disease.

But I also know that many people that is not the case. They are excluded from the health insurance system because they have a preexisting condition and can't afford the medications that would be able to live -- allow them to live their lives to the fullest, enable them to pursue their dreams the way they want to do that.

I remember when I was running for Congress, there was a young man who worked on my campaign who also had M.S. And he told me one day near Election Day that he was working for me, and he thought I was running for Congress, so that we could reach this day where we could have health care reform that would be really meaningful for people like Sean (ph) and people like me and people with preexisting conditions.

And not just multiple sclerosis, other autoimmune diseases, or the mother whose daughter has cancer in remission and is worried because she's new in the workplace, doesn't have health care yet, and that cancer history could preclude her from getting the preventive care and monitoring her condition and making sure, if need be, she got the treatment she would need.

The mothers with asthma. The people with diabetes. For all of us -- for all of us Americans, this is a great day, a big step forward to having real health insurance reform.

And I can't wait for the day when we actually get an opportunity to vote for health care reform. And thank you very much for getting us there. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CLYBURN: Thank you very much, Mary Jo.

What does quality, affordable health care mean to you under this new bill?

First of all, it means consumer protection, holding the insurance industry accountable, and peace of mind for you and your family.

Here's what happens immediately under this bill.

The uninsured will have access to a temporary insurance program -- we're calling it a high-risk pool -- from the date of enactment until the exchange is available.

(APPLAUSE)

CLYBURN: From the date of enactment, insurers will be prohibited from dropping your coverage if you get sick.

(APPLAUSE)

From the date of enactment, we'll hinder price-gouging with sunshine requirements on insurance companies to disclose insurance rate increases.

(APPLAUSE)

From the date of enactment, COBRA health insurance coverage will be extended until the exchange is available and displaced workers can have affordable coverage.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, after 2013, when the mandate for coverage and the exchange are in place, you'll see these additional protections.

No more copays for routine checkups and preventive care.

(APPLAUSE)

There will be yearly caps on your out-of-pocket expenses.

(APPLAUSE)

No lifetime or yearly caps on what insurance companies will cover.

(APPLAUSE)

And, as has been said so often, an end to discrimination before -- because of preexisting conditions like diabetes, heart disease or M.S.

(APPLAUSE)

And I want now to introduce another member, from the great Buckeye state of Ohio, Marcia Fudge.

(APPLAUSE)

FUDGE: Thank you, Mr. Whip.

Women are among those who stand to gain the most from health insurance reform.

FUDGE: We pay more, we get less, and some of the ways we are treated by insurance companies is just criminal.

Jodie (ph) Miller from Maryland has her story to share with us today.

(APPLAUSE)

JODIE (ph) MILLER: Thank you, Representative Fudge.

My husband and I married more than a decade ago and immediately began trying to have children. After a year of unsuccessful attempts and being diagnosed with unexplained infertility, we chose in vitro fertilization as the method to build our family.

At that time, our insurance plan did not cover IVF, with the exception of some of the drugs.

We paid approximately $22,000 out of pocket to conceive our children, and in May of 2000, our triplet sons were born.

(APPLAUSE)

This year, we took a serious look at our family finances and realized that our health insurance premiums from an individual policy were costing us nearly a third of our net income. Since we cannot afford such a cost, we researched other health plans options that might be more affordable and decided upon a health savings account.

We applied to CareFirst, BlueCross -- BlueCross/BlueShield. We were told that our three children had been accepted into the policy but that my husband and I were not. The reason: preexisting medical condition, specifically for myself, infertility, and for my husband, spousal infertility.

If it wasn't so alarming, it would almost be humorous.

I have never heard of infertility as a preexisting condition, but even more absurd was spousal infertility. Are "spousal cancer" or "spousal HIV" terms that are used?

The incredible irony is that our need for IVF was not considered a coverable medical condition, so we paid out of pocket. And now, more than 10 years later, we are being denied health insurance for that very same reason. Madam Speaker, members of the Congress, I am pleased to be here with you today to say we need health insurance reform for families like mine. We must be able to find affordable health care for our families that provides for our needs without costing a third of our income.

MILLER: And we must not be denied coverage for a preexisting condition.

The insurance companies must hear that women -- or that a woman who wants to be a mom is not a preexisting condition.

(APPLAUSE)

Our current system is obviously not working, and I hope that Congress will move quickly to resolve this national problem.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

FUDGE: America's Affordable Health Choices Act will revolutionize health care for women, ending the discrimination we face under our current system.

More than 14 million American women who have purchased health insurance in the private market last year paid up to 48 percent more in premium costs than men.

Insurance companies routinely practice what they call gender rating, and that permits them to charge men and women different premiums for the very same coverage.

America's Affordable Health Choices Act will make gender rating illegal. Never again...

(APPLAUSE)

Never again will insurance companies be able to deny women coverage for C-sections because we are pregnant, because we are victims of domestic violence.

(APPLAUSE)

Never again will insurance companies be able to deny us just for being women.

(APPLAUSE)

America's Affordable Health Choices Act will make health care affordable for all of America's women and protect us from high and potentially unmanageable out-of-pocket health care cost. This bill will improve health care for not only women, but for all Americans.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

(inaudible) colleague, Representative Dahlkemper from Pennsylvania.

(APPLAUSE)

DAHLKEMPER: Thank you, Congresswoman Fudge.

As I look out among the crowd here, I see many young people. I have five children, ages 20 to 30, and it's those young people who I've seen fear in their eyes and deep concern in their parents' faces that they often go uninsured.

So now I'm pleased to introduce Monique Luce (ph), a law student at Georgetown University. Monique (ph) learned firsthand why young adults need affordable quality health insurance.

(APPLAUSE)

MONIQUE LUCE (ph): Hello. My name is Monique Luce (ph), and I'm 27 years old, from Michigan, and a third-year law student at Georgetown.

I am also a member of Young Invincibles, a youth-focused organization that has come together to advocate for comprehensive health care reform.

On behalf of Young Invincibles and the Why I Want Change Coalition, I want to thank Speaker Pelosi for her leadership.

It is an honor to stand with you on this historic day.

The health care crisis in America is young America's crisis. It has also been my own.

When I was 21 years old, I was diagnosed with hypertension, a chronic condition. I thankfully had good health insurance at the time. I was able to get the prescription medication I needed. I was able to manage my condition.

But when I graduated from college, I followed my passion into public service. I moved around as I built my career. And I ended up in situations where I was in between coverage, waiting to get on the insurance plan that came with my next job.

That's what happens to millions of young Americans in our broken health care system. We are figuring out who we're going to -- where we're going to live, what careers we're going to have, who we're going to be. But because I had hypertension, I also had to figure out during those transitions how I was going to pay for my medication, whether I was going to get the metro pass or walk two miles to work in order to manage my condition and stay healthy became an actual consideration.

That's not the way it should have to be.

Recently, I started having other symptoms. I went to the doctor, and was eventually diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called Sjogren's syndrome.

LUCE (ph): It will mean more management and more vigilance on my part to ensure that I stay healthy. If I again end up in a place without, or with inadequate, coverage, it will mean more and unmanageable expenses.

Our broken health care system has a cost that is just not financial. Navigating drops or gaps in coverage influences the decisions I make and the risks I'm willing to take in building my career and becoming who I'm going to be.

Not only is that not right, it's not smart, and it must be changed. The time for comprehensive health care reform is now, because no one is invincible without health care.

Thank you to all those in Congress working in good faith to get this done. Thank you for your leadership and your courage to put the needs of everyday Americans first. We can't wait any longer.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

DAHLKEMPER: Thank you, Monique (ph).

Young adults like Monique (ph) are our country's future. They are the reason I am here, the reason that we are all here today.

Twenty-nine percent of our nation's uninsured are young adults between the ages of 19 and 29. Nearly one-third of those young adults do not have health insurance.

That means when young adults face a medical emergency, their care often comes at taxpayers' expense or not at all. They often make big life decisions based on health insurance concerns. There's a clear and urgent need to provide health insurance coverage to our young adults.

Under the Affordable Health Care for America Act, young adults will have the option to remain on their parents' health care plans until their 27th birthday at no...

(APPLAUSE)

And this is at no cost to American taxpayers.

DAHLKEMPER: We have a responsibility to give them every chance to thrive, to lead, to be free of the fear that Monique (ph) experienced. That is why this bill is so important.

And I am proud to be part of this historic legislation that will lower costs and expand affordable health care to all Americans.

And now I would like to introduce another great leader, Congressman Xavier Becerra of California.

(APPLAUSE)

BECERRA: Thank you, Kathy, for your leadership in ensuring that all of American -- America's children have an opportunity to retain their health care.

In 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood up and fought for Social Security. There were many who said no, but he had the courage to stand up.

In 1965, Lyndon Baines Johnson stood up and had the courage to say yes to Medicare, despite the fear that was shouted out by many along with their no.

And today all of us here gather together to say yes to America, because we have heard you, we see it in your eyes. You are telling us it is time to reform our health care system for all of our families; not tomorrow, not in 40 years, but today. And we hear you loud and clear.

(APPLAUSE)

We know that you have fought to keep your children insured. We know that you have fought against those insurance bureaucrats who deny you care. We know that you scramble to find the money to pay that monthly premium. And we know that you would not go one day without doing everything you could to help your child or your spouse or your parent have access to the quality affordable care that we all deserve.

BECERRA: We will be with you because it is time (inaudible) quality health care we know exists in this country.

But there is no one in America who has fought longer, truer and harder for quality health care reform for America's families than the man I'm about to introduce to you.

He began his crusade in Congress back in 1955, three years before I was born.

(LAUGHTER)

Ten years later, he fought for and voted for the passage of the Medicare Act, and today he is the principal author of our legislation, of America's legislation to reform health care so that all America's families have access to quality affordable care.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you'll help me welcome the dean of Congress, the hardest-working member for health care reform that America's ever seen, and the man who will get to live to see health care reform done in 2009, the representative from Michigan, John Dingell.

(APPLAUSE)

DINGELL: Thank you, my friend Xavier, for that very gracious introduction. Thank you, my friend, for your leadership. And thank you for your friendship. And thank you for the work that you've put in on behalf of the people of the United States.

I'm delighted to get up here and celebrate with you this proud day. And I want to tell you how happy I am to be standing with these wonderful men and women here behind me. These are great Americans.

DINGELL: And, Madam Speaker, I want to say thank you to you for your leadership, and you, Steny Hoyer, and our other leaders, Mr. Clyburn and all of the others, and our three committee chairmen. Thank you for what you do.

And thank you for what you have done and for the patient leadership which you have shown in bringing us together this day and bringing forward a piece of legislation conceived in the greatest openness, fairness and frankness. Your leadership is extraordinary.

And I want to pay tribute to the other members here, all of whom are committed to the United States. These are real patriots. And they are here to see to it that the greatest humanitarian need that this country confronts today and the greatest economic problem which this country confronts is addressed in a single piece of legislation to provide health care, a fair choice and a decent, firm, assured program of health care for every American.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, the name John Dingell is going to be the first on that bill. And I'm sure my little daddy up above will be looking down on us, as will be Senator Wagner and Senator Murray, who were the ones that started this out.

And also that great president, Harry Truman, who pushed for it back in 1943, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was pushing for it before that, in the '30s. It was to be a part of the Social Security system.

But there's nobody more proud of it than these members who are here with me today. And I want you to know how proud I am to be amongst them, the senior members who have been working for this and -- I want to say God bless them -- the new members, who have come here to make this possible.

(APPLAUSE)

Because is it they, who, coming from difficult districts, have the courage to provide us the leadership. And they are the majority makers.

DINGELL: And to them I say thank you, God bless you. We're proud of you for what you do.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm delighted to report to you that H.R. 3962, which will be introduced today, beats the goals that our great President Obama has outlined.

It is deficit-neutral. It provides coverage for 36 percent -- rather for 96 percent of Americans.

And Americans who do not -- that 47 million Americans who do not have health care will be grateful for this day. But those millions of Americans who can and will lose health care if we don't pass this legislation have additional reasons to be grateful for this day and to be proud of what it is we're doing.

This bill offer everyone, regardless of income, age, sex, health status, the peace of mind in knowing that they will have real access to quality, affordable health insurance when they need it. And they're not going to have to worry about it -- losing it if they lose their job or if they become sick, or if it's found that they have a preexisting condition. Those things are going to be events of the past.

H.R. 3962 is going to offer choice and honest competition, and it is going to bring security to our seniors.

And as mentioned, I did have the privilege of sitting in the chair when we passed Medicare, originally authored by my old dad. And I had the opportunity to watch in the House and to see where it came from. Well, it came from Lyndon Johnson, my dad and I, and a lot of Democratic members who worked very hard.

I used this here gavel...

(LAUGHTER)

... to preside over the House.

(APPLAUSE)

And I'm going to lend it to whoever it is who gets to preside over this legislation.

(LAUGHTER)

Because a good piece of wood doesn't wear out with one great event.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

And I'm going to tell our senior citizens -- holding this gavel in my hand -- that, first of all, I, my dad, and these members up here, and our leadership, who have protected Social Security and Medicare through attempts to privatize and dissipate it -- and agree that we are going to see that Social Security and Medicare is protected.

(APPLAUSE)

DINGELL: And the only citizens who are going to have to worry about their participation in Medicare being cut are the insurance companies. Some of them are getting paid 150 percent of what they're entitled to. And that's being paid, curiously enough, by other American citizens, retirees who are paying extra for their Medicare in order to pay that 150 percent.

We're going to see that the money goes back where it should, that seniors don't pay too much, that seniors get the benefits they should, the insurance companies get the benefits that they should, but not too much.

And we're going to see something else. We're going to see that that money goes to where it should: to providing benefits for our senior citizens, because we who have protected Medicare are going to continue to do so.

Now, I want to point out...

(APPLAUSE)

... 47 million Americans have no insurance, 25 million are underinsured, and there are thousands who are finding that they are about to lose their insurance or are in danger of losing it. We're going to bring that to a halt.

Now, we've waited 19.7 years between attempts to move forward on comprehensive health insurance, on the average, since the days of Harry Truman. Well, that's just a little bit too doggone long. And we're going to see to it that we move forward now, because another delay is, quite frankly, intolerable.

(APPLAUSE)

DINGELL: Members of Congress and the people of the United States rarely have an opportunity to vote on legislation or to support legislation of this magnitude.

History recalls for us the '60s. Our seniors were finding it harder and harder to get affordable health insurance. Well, Medicare was passed in response, and it is one of the most successful programs in the history of the United States. And, as I mentioned, this gavel was there when it was passed.

And I want to tell you it is now time for health care reform. These people up here who worked for you and the staff which supports them and the entirety of the American people want this change. And we are going to give it to them.

Let's hear it for the leadership and for the members. And let's hear it for the day when we're all going to be down with the president of the United States to see to it that this is signed into law.

God bless you all.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your great leadership over the decades and for your inspiration you are to us, as well as a tremendous intellectual resource.

As you can see, we have our clarion call, made by our great chairman here today, made by the American people in their need for change.

We thank our special guests who spoke so eloquently for the American people here.

We thank our colleagues who speak for them every day in their service to the Congress.

None of this would be possible without the prospect of the presidential signature, so we thank President Barack Obama for the way he has weighed in on this, the intellectual contributions he has made to it.

(APPLAUSE)

When he came before the Congress, the president quoted a letter from Senator Kennedy, who said this is about the character of our country. And as we thank and acknowledge the contributions from -- to many over the decades and our newest members who take us into the future, let us also acknowledge the tremendous leadership of Senator Kennedy, who made this his life work.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you all, very much.

We thank our students -- we thank our students. We thank our workers. We thank our health care providers. We thank the organizations that are here from Small Business Majority to Families U.S.A. We thank you all. Onward to passing the bill in the Congress. Thank you all.

(APPLAUSE)

END


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