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Health Summit 2010

Rep. Louise Slaughter makes remarks on preexisting conditions at White House health summit

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Thursday, February 25, 2010; 1:56 PM

I'm going to go to Louise, then...

MCCONNELL: To Mike Enzi.

OBAMA: ... Mike Enzi. I'll go to Tom Harkin. And then go back to Dave.

So I've got five speakers, and I don't have a lot of time. Go ahead.

SLAUGHTER: Thank you, Mr. President.

And thanks to all of my colleagues for (inaudible). I am pretty succinct and pretty timely. I will not take up a lot of time, but I sure do have to say some things.

The first one is the preexisting conditions absolutely has to go. It is cruel, it is capricious, and it is done only to enhance the bottom line.

This was not even anything we talked about 10 or 15 years ago. But it was mentioned that all Americans should be treated the same. Let me give you a little history on that.

Eight states in this country right now have declared that domestic violence is a preexisting conditions on the ground, I assume, that if you're been unlucky enough to get yourself beaten up once you might go around and do it again.

Forty-eight percent is the higher cost for women in many cases to buy their own insurance. Believe you me, that is really discriminatory.

In 1991, women were not included in any of the trials at the NIH because we had hormones. It wasn't until we had a critical mass of women here that said this will not do for more than half the population of the United States, who pay taxes, that we made certain that diseases like osteoporosis, mainly a woman's disease, cervical cancer, only a woman's disease, uterine cancer and others were really looked at.

Up to that point, 1991, all research at the Institutes of Health was done on white males. Now, think about that for a minute, if you will. We couldn't do that because we said kindly would you stop doing that. It took legislation.

Doing this will take legislation. I've been through this before. I was here when we had the Clinton debate. It was started, some of you will remember, by Lee Iacocca, who said, "We cannot export our automobiles, there is a $1,000 cost for health care in every one of them. My competitors are way ahead of me. They are eating my lunch."

That was one of the main reasons, Mr. President, if you recall, that we decided we had to do something about that.

In the 13, 15 years since that's happened we have done nothing about health care. We don't export so much anymore. The automobile business is basically gone. We have done nothing to encourage entrepreneurs.

The speaker spoke of this, this morning. We need to think more about the economic benefits of doing this. Those of us who are trying to redo some trade policies and maybe let us make something else again in the United States really want to make sure that it succeeds, and this would be a great part of that. I think it's terribly important that we do that.

Also since the Clinton health care plan we've seen some pretty awful things. We saw hospitals abandoned to the streets, critically ill, elderly, mentally ill persons, and there was no great hue and cry out there.

And now I understand that is actually a proposal, which God knows I hope never sees the light of day, that shot down Medicare and turned that into a voucher system, where, obviously, we would not pay the full cost of health care (inaudible) going to have to go to the public market and try to find some.

So what are we going to be doing then? We're going to be once again abandoning our elderly, abandoning our mentally ill and our seriously ill to the streets. We're better people than that.

I think it would be really a good thing for us today, while we're here in this room together, to really think about what's absolutely important here. Not nitpick over little pieces of this and that, but think about all the people out there every single day, the number of people, excess deaths, because they have no health insurance.

I even have one constituent -- you will not believe this, and I know you won't, but it's true -- her sister died. This poor woman had no denture. She wore her dead sister's teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit.

Do you ever believe that in America that that's where we would be?

This is the last chance as far as I'm concerned, particularly on the export business. We have fallen behind. We're no longer the biggest manufacturer in the world. We've lot our technological edge. We have an opportunity to do that, but a major part of the success of that is getting this health care bill passed.

Thank you very much.

OBAMA: Louise, thank you.

I was just informed -- and by the way, this has been a terrific conversation so far -- the House had to schedule a vote on an item, and my understanding is it has already started. So what I'd like to do is this. We've got four remaining speakers -- Mike Enzi, Dave Camp, I guess, again, and as well as Tom Harkin -- four remaining speakers -- and Jay Rockefeller. What I'd like to do is to break so that the House can take the vote.

When we come back we will start with Mike, and we will return to finish up the issue of insurance (inaudible), and then we will move on to the questions of coverage.

HOYER: Mr. President? Mr. President?

OBAMA: So we are scheduled to be back here at 1:45.

HOYER: I just want to inform the House members, Mr. President, there's only one vote. The vote is on. Obviously they'll hold it until we get there, but we need to vote and then come right back.

OBAMA: All right. Thank you, everybody.


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