New Congress: Health-care repeal, new rules, more

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Friday, January 7, 2011; 12:30 PM

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) discusses the new Congress and its agenda, including health care, new rules and more.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz: I'm looking forward to talking with WP readers today!

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Florida redistricting: Do you expect the passage of the anti-gerrymandering amendments in Florida (the Fair District amendments 5 and 6) to have a real effect? Even though I volunteered over 200 hours on the Sink campaign, I thought they were the most important issues on the ballot.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The passage of Amendments 5 and 6 are a significant victory for Floridians. The Florida Legislature will no longer be able to play games with drawing district lines to protect incumbents, protect political parties and we finally have an opportunity to have districts fairly drawn. No more Rorschach test-like district maps!

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Who are the people the Republicans will deny health care?: Republicans in Congress plan to attempt to repeal health care. Why aren't Democrats in Congress pointed at real life examples of who this will affect? We have made a promse to people who can't afford health care and who have pre-existing health conditions. Why don't you show the nation who is it that Republicans feel don't deserve our help?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Thank you for your question. I completely agree that Democrats should be talking about the grave and harmful impact that repealing the health care law will have on Americans. Yesterday in the Rules Committee, dozens of my Democratic colleagues and I shared the stories of our constituents and how they would be affected by the repeal. I shared the story of Chastity Hart, a 19 year old from Miami who was diagnosed with lupus a chronic auto-immune disease three years ago. Without health care reform, Chastity will become ineligible to remain on her Mom's health insurance plan. She takes four different expensive medications daily. She recently spent six months undergoing chemotherapy and was rushed to the E.R. just this week. Without health care reform, Chastity's family would face skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs, but the Affordable Care Act ends prohibitive lifetime and annual caps that would have eaten through the Hart family's savings. This is the human face of the impact of repeal.

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Still the Party of No?: Republicans in the House have said their first goal is to repeal the entire Obama agenda. A vote to repeal The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is first on their list. Has there been a national outcry to repeal the entire bill? Is this the number one issue for voters?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: should be back in the driver's seat on health care decisions, they say no. When seniors are asked whether they think we should restore the massive gap in their prescription drug coverage aka the donut hole, they say no. When people are asked if they think insurance companies should be able to drop people or deny them coverage for preexisting conditions, they say no. Americans support health security because it means economic security.

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Health care: Why did the president revamp the entire health-care system, instead of taking one step at a time in order to control the cost ?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Thank you for your question. The only way to make sure we could significantly bring down the cost of health care was to pass comprehensive health care reform legislation. To do that, we had to change the system from a sick-care system to a preventive, well-care system. This focus will allow people to remain healthier longer and result in less-expensive treatment down the road. Now that everyone will have affordable access to health care, the costs will drop.

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Reading the Constitution: Rep. Schultz, my parents are retired and live in your district (I live in DC). When I was talking to my mother last night, she said that she had been listening to the representatives read the Constutition, but wasn't sure you had participated. Did you and can you tell us how you viewed the reading (I should tell you that I think that every session of Congress should start with such a reading, because so few citizens actually read or know much about the Constitution). Thank you.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: During the reading of the Constitution I was waiting to speak at the Rules Committee hearing on the health care reform repeal bill. As such, I was unable to participate in the reading. However, we need to go beyond a simple reading of the Constitution. Adhering to its principles is of paramount importance.

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The economy and health care: Congresswoman, thank you for doing this chat. I really appreciate your willingness to face the voters. Having said that, respectfully, don't you think it's disingenuous of you and those on your side of the aisle to chide the Republicans for talking about health care instead of jobs considering that's what you guys did for a year and a half? Democrats ran (in part) on health care reform in '08 and you passed it. Republicans ran (in part) on health- care reform's repeal last year, so it's perfectly reasonable to expect them to deal with it. At least they're going to do so immediately and get it out of the way.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: You're welcome and thanks for your question. In the 111th Congress, Democrats were aggressively focused on job creation. You may recall that in the month before President Obama took office, the economy was bleeding 750K+ per month. In 2010 alone, we added 1.2 million jobs in the private sector to the economy-935,000 of those jobs since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Since March, 171,000 of those jobs were in the health care sector. In fact, the health care sector has gained jobs every month since October of '09. Just last month alone, 36,000 of the 103,000 jobs created in December were in the health care sector. So, the Republicans' claim that HCR is a job-killer is totally bogus.

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Entitlement Spending: and a bigggg fan of yours. Continue to do the great job you do. My question: After continuing with the Bush era tax cuts do you think the GOP are setting us up down the road to decrease SSI benefits/age eligibility and/or do away with Medicare and can they do that? Thanks.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Social Security or turn Medicare into a voucher program. We must get a handle on our deficit, but not at the expense of our seniors and our most vulnerable who depend on Social Security and Medicare as a safety net. Republicans have made their intentions clear: their Chairman of the Budget Committee, Paul Ryan has even written a book about his plan to privatize Social Security and turn Medicare into a voucher program. Democrats in Congress and President Obama will not allow that to happen.

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Hsopitals don't make lots of Money and may close: Aren't you worried that cuts to Medicare might cause hospitals to close? Even in your district? There is the distinct possibility that hospitals that rely on Medcaid and Medicare reimbursement might not be able to stay afloat. You can talk all you want about eliminating waste, but hospitals do need a minimum number of clinical staff to actually take care of patients.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Thank you for your question. The Affordable Care Act actually raises Medicaid reimbursement rates up to Medicare reimbursement levels, while also increasding primary care reimbursement for Medicare as well. The law also ensures that during patients' stay in the hospital there is a greater focus on wellness and avoiding the hyperfocus on shortening lengths of stay just to get patients out of the hospital. As a result, doctors will be able to make sure their patients can remain in the hospital if needed and avoid expensive readmissions.

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Winning back the majority: What is the Democrats strategy for the next election cycle? Can you win back the majority? How do you re-energize the base that put you in power in 2006 and 2008?Thanks!

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Thank you for your question. Our strategy for winning back the majority is to focus on creating jobs, turning the economy around and reducing the deficit. Those are the number one priorities of the American people right now. We must continue to reduce the unemployment rate and get people back to work. We got a little bit of good news today with the jobs report finding that the unemployment rate dropped to 9.4%. We must not allow the Republicans irresponsible fiscal recklessness short-circuit the economic recovery.

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Health care bill already raising premiums!: Republicans say that healthcare bill is already raising insurance premiums. Considering that the provisions of the bill have hardly been implemented (except coverage of children to age 26), I do not understand how can what the Repulicans say be true. What is your take on this matter?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Thank you for your question. Republicans are pointing to premium increases that even the insurance companies say are not the result of passage of the Affordable Care Act. For example BC/BS of California released a statement yesterday that specifically rejected the notion that passage of the Affordable Care Act had anything to do with their recent premium increase. To quote from their statement, "The rate increases reported today cover a period of more than one year and have almost nothing to do with the federal health reform law. These rates reflect trends that were building long before health reform...Health reform will help slow down this trend by expanding coverage, which will keep healthier people in the system, and through quality and cost containment initiatives."

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Democratic Agenda: You, Minority Leader Pelosi and the rest of our Democratic Reps are going to have to work harder to get our message out to the public at large that we are the ones that will protect the middle class. We didn't do a good job last session. How will we improve on this very important task?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Thank you for your question. We definitely need to make it more clear to the middle class that Democrats are the party that fights for their interests. We will measure the Republican majorities proposals by the following yardstick: "Does it create jobs? Does it enhance the middle class? Does it reduce the deficit?" They have thus far shown that their policies fail miserable on those tests.

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Will there ever be a Democrat on "Dancing With The Stars"?: First there was conservative columnist Tucker Carlson. Then Tom DeLay, and most recently Bristol Palin. Will there ever be a Democrat on "Dancing With The Stars"?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Thank you for your question! I think this is a CLEAR example of the conservative bias of reality t.v.! Or...maybe you're just being spared the two left feet of most Democrats, particularly mine!!

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz: I really enjoyed answering your questions. Thank you so much and I look forward to doing this again! DWS


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