Pelosi Remarks at Virtual Press Event with Protect Our Care to Mark the 11th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act
San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Protect Our Care to discuss how the Affordable Care Act has benefitted millions of Americans since its passage 11 years ago and the enhancements to the ACA passed in the American Rescue Plan. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Leslie, for bringing us together to observe and, indeed, to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. It is completely appropriate that we have a very important person with us: Ms. Patel. She is the reason – Himali is the reason that we passed the bill. And she and others like her, under the leadership of Protect Our Care, is the reason that we were able to save the Affordable Care Act.
We could do all the inside maneuvering that we could legislatively under the inspired leadership of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. But the inside maneuvering doesn't add up to the great success without the outside mobilization. So, I'm here as we celebrate to thank Protect Our Care, you, Leslie, Brad Woodhouse and so many others for making the outside mobilization the force that it was to get us across the finish line.
And that – what saved it even since its passage were the stories, the stories. Himali tells her stories, but 10,000 events were held for people to tell their stories – nothing more eloquent to a Member of Congress than the voice of his or her own constituents. And so, as we celebrate, we want to improve. And that is exactly what we have been doing. Thank you for acknowledging what is in the rescue package that makes the subsidies available to many more people in our country. As we transition, we will have our little growing pains, but we can – that's a sign of success as we grow.
And then, we have the road ahead to look at other considerations in terms of the cost of prescription drugs, etc., as we go forward. But for now, to acknowledge that on that day, eleven years ago, 20 million more people had access to health care. 150,000 – excuse me. One hundred and fifty million families in our country, who already had health care, had improved benefits. No longer could they be held back from getting care and insurance because of a pre-existing medical condition.
You know some of the provisions that relate to children 26 and under. You know that being a woman is no longer a pre-existing medical condition. The list goes on and on. The expansion of Medicaid, a very important part of it. And we hope that across the country many more governors will see the light as to what this means.
Reverend Martin Luther King, he said of all of the in inequalities that exist, the most inhuman was the inequality related to health care because people could die. And people do. And we have saved lives. And now we'll save more for what's in the rescue package. And as we prepare to go forward. We see this as a pillar of economic and health security for our country, on a par with what happened with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid: the Affordable Care Act. And now this rescue package – as with the other initiatives, which were always improved over time – will improve that and prepare us for how we make some of these improvements personal – permanent.
I'm very proud of Congresswoman Underwood of Illinois, whose legislation was to make the subsidies available at a higher level of income so that many more people would have affordable, quality health care. Remember, it was called patient protection affordable health care. Joe Biden was there, present at the birth. He's now president, as we grow it. And we thank President Obama for his tremendous leadership. And I thank the Members of Congress, who had the courage to not only help create, but to support the legislation that we're all celebrating today. I thank you again, Protect Our Care.
Leslie Dach. Thank you, Madam Speaker. And we had an opportunity to be on a Zoom this morning with the new Secretary of HHS, your former colleague of 20 –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Leslie Dach. And he’s just raring to go and he’s going to do a great job. And he’s already on the road, talking to folks and listening.
Speaker Pelosi. He really did a job as Attorney General defending the Affordable Care Act against the assault on it. It's hard, but what's interesting is that many more people are accepting it. When it was passed, it was new. People were given misinformation about it. And so, not as many people signed up as we would have liked in the beginning. Well, many did, but we didn't reach some of these governors who didn't expand Medicare and Medicaid.
And then, as people enjoyed it, benefited from it, it grew. But there were still assaults on it. And Xavier Becerra, as Attorney General defended it, with other attorneys general, and now a Secretary of HHS with President Biden as the Commander-in-Chief of our fight for quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
I see we've been joined by the distinguished Majority Leader. Doesn't that have a nice ring to it? Majority Leader Schumer.
Moderator. Okay, so our first question is going to be from Ariel Hart at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. And Ariel, you should be live.
Q: Hi, can you hear me?
Moderator. Yes, we can.
Q: Great. So, question from here in Georgia. Looks as if Miss Patel has an income that qualifies her for significant subsidies. The four times poverty rate, four times the federal poverty rate here, though ends at about median income for Georgia, median household income.
So, Speaker, what would you say? What would you say to those Georgians who don't qualify for subsidies at all and are about middle class and are paying the full freight of premiums and several thousand dollar deductibles?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I would say that we are expanding. We wanted to do this in the first bill to have a higher plateau, which – a threshold I should say – which people could receive subsidies. That – we had to pay – we paid for the bill, so we stayed within what would fit within that pay-for.
So, now we have the opportunity to expand that. Our goal is to have affordable health care for all Americans, not just by adjusting a subsidy level, but by expanding it across the board. And that is some of what we will do as we go forward.
And part of that is the cost of prescription drugs. There's nothing that increases the cost of health care more than the cost of prescription drugs. And we have H.R.3, the Elijah Cummings [Lower] Drug Costs Now legislation that will help reduce the cost as well.
So, there are all kinds of ways to reduce the cost to a family. Part of it is what they have to pay at – most families in this range, don't have to pay more than $10 a month. And then if we reduce the cost of prescription drugs, of course, that is a reduction for all families, as well.
So, it is, it is, it's quite remarkable what is was done in the rescue package. Is it all of it? No, we still want to put many, many more people in the enhanced Medicaid. That isn't the folks that you're talking about there.
But I would just say that this is constantly improving, and all of them benefit from the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. If they have a pre-existing condition, if they have a child who is 26 or under, if they have – if they have they have – they’re a woman and the rest.
But understand this: this is coronavirus-centric. We're doing this. We need to make these permanent. And as we make these permanent, we can try to expand them further for the families that you suggested. Because again, as Dr. King said, this is the most inhuman, inhuman, because people can die.
Leslie Dach. Thank you, Madam Speaker. And, as you said, the rescue package, depending on which estimate you look at, is – there are up to 25 million Americans, whether it's through Medicaid or through the affordability provisions that will now have an opportunity to become insured at affordable prices that they couldn't before. And so, that – the bill is not just about more people getting covered. It's about easing the economic burden. And that was your design from the very beginning. Mitch, any other questions?
Moderator. We do. Our next question is going to come from Kristina Peterson at the Wall Street Journal. Kristina, you should be live.
Q: Thank you. Speaker Pelosi, as we look forward to the next major legislative package, including infrastructure, would you consider including health care changes to that package? And if so, what might you be open to?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think that what is in the public domain as to what is being discussed, and I thank you for your question, is this is an infrastructure bill. And we consider human infrastructure a very important part of how we go forward. We include education and housing, in addition to roads and bridges, et cetera. We also have a big broadband provision in there for distance learning and all different other ways that we enhance people's well-being.
Okay, so to your exact question, one of the considerations that — is — that Members are discussing is whether we have aspects of H.R. 3, as I mentioned, the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now legislation. If we were able to do that, we could save almost a half a trillion dollars, like $450 billion that could be used to help improve, as the previous question asked. It improves the affordability and the access because accessibility and affordability are one in the same in our view.
So, it's – so, that is one thing that we would consider. Now, would it also pay for other aspects? Community health centers are very much a priority for us and the leadership of Jim Clyburn, our, our distinguished Democratic Whip, Mr. Pallone, the Chair of the Committee. They have a plan for broadband expansion, but also community health centers. This is – I would carpet the country with community health centers, and much of that funding can come from the money that we would save by passing H.R. 3.
So, those are the considerations that we have to make. Now, we want the bill to be bipartisan. And usually infrastructure has not been partisan and so, to the extent, we have to make decisions as we go along, but we would be missing an opportunity if we did not include lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
Going back to ’06, when we ran and won the House back. We had Six for '06, six things we would do in the first 100 hours. One – five of them became law. One of them did not – it passed the House of course, it did not get 60 votes in the Senate. And that was enabling the Secretary of HHS to negotiate for lower prices. We just couldn't get it passed. Sixty votes.
Okay, then, fast forward to the election of 2016. The president kept – the presidential candidate on the other side, he said, ‘I'm going to negotiate like crazy’ to get those prices down. With President Trump, president-to-be Trump, candidate Trump. ‘I'm going to negotiate like crazy.’ But then he sort of abandoned that when he became president.
Well, we are going to abandon – we're going to negotiate, sanely, in order to make sure we can reduce the cost of prescription drugs. I have seen grown men cry across the country as we were going around and travel, when we could, about this. When we hear of the story – well, Ms. Patel’s story is one that is affected by the cost of prescription drugs as well.
So, this is really – it's been a priority of ours for a very long time. We couldn't, as I said, get it in ‘07, that January. President Trump spoke about it, but then ignored it, just as he did with the infrastructure, but not to go into that. We want this to be as bipartisan as possible. But we don't want to – bipartisanship to limit what it does for America's working families, for small businesses, for our children, for our country.
Q: And if I could just ask one follow up. Is – is expanding Medicare eligibility is something that might also be considered in this package?
Speaker Pelosi. Excuse me, I'm sorry.
Q: Is expanding Medicare eligibility something that you might also consider including in the package?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, there are all kinds of initiatives that – in other words, this bill that's coming up, the recovery package is not the last day that we will be discussing all of this. So, our goal is affordable, affordable health care for all Americans. Affordable, quality health care for all Americans. Expanding Medicaid is essential to that. And I understand that even some governors in some red states are thinking more about that, because that's one of their biggest expenses in the state. And we were willing to, to help with that.
But it is, but it is, it is – yeah, obviously, it is something that we want to do. I want a public option. I don't know that we get that in this bill. But this is an ongoing conversation of improvements, of advances that we can make in the – as we celebrate the Affordable Care Act. I wanted public action eleven years – a public option eleven years ago. I didn't succeed then. We had it in the House. We couldn’t get it in the Senate. We'll see where we go from here.
But all – everything is on the table. Let me just put it that way. Everything is on the table. We have to be agnostic about the choices we make. What is it that does the most for the American people, at the least cost to them, making it accessible and affordable? And to do so in a way that makes it – it's not about just health care in America. It's about the good health of the American people. And that goes beyond, shall we say, the doctor's office. It's about housing, and it's about clean air and clean water, and all the other aspects of the well-being of the American people. So, we see the strength of our country, not only in our military might, but in the health and well-being of the American people.
Leslie Dach. Thank you, Madam Speaker. And just looking at the clock, we promised you we’d let you get onto the nation's business. Thank you for doing this. Thank you for all that you've done. Thanks to everyone who's participated. And Himali, thank you for taking the time to be with us tell your story, and I hope people get back to work and your business gets back to work too. Thanks, everybody.
Speaker Pelosi. Let me just join you in thanking Himali. I do say all the time, there's nothing more optimistic a person can do, or courageous, than to start a small business, maybe getting married –
But I thank you for your courage and I thank you for your generosity of spirit, just sharing your story with us. And we hope that the improvements that are there, you will feel the effect of them soon.
I join the Leader in thanking Leslie for his personal commitment to the good health of the American people and to Protect Our Care for bringing so many people together as we go forward, everything on the table, in order to do the best possible job to keep our country in the forefront. Thank you so much, Leslie.
Leslie Dach. Thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you.