Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act

May 16, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, a bill to lower prescription drug prices and reverse the Trump Administration’s health care sabotage.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Congratulations.  What a joy to see you in the Chair as Speaker of the House.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for your extraordinary leadership as Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee – to you and to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Chair of the Health Subcommittee.

Thank you so much for all of your hard work to bring us to the series of bills today, in addition to the bills of last week.

I commend our colleague who just spoke, Annie Kuster, for her important legislation to preserve the benefit of pre-existing conditions not being a barrier to care and insurance and, also, to Lisa Blunt Rochester for her leadership on the legislation before us today to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

Mr. Speaker and colleagues, on Sunday we marked Mother’s Day, a special tribute to our mothers, and also, a somber reminder of the days when being a mother – when being a woman – was a pre-existing medical condition.

As a mother of five, I can speak from some experience as to what an obstacle that can be to access to insurance.

And last week, we took action to block the Administration’s cynical efforts to drag our country back to the dark days of discrimination in health care coverage by passing the Protecting Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions Act.

Again, I salute Congresswoman Kuster for her leadership on this and you, Mr. Chairman.

This is not a fight about legislation that we’re gathered for here today.  This is about a fight for our lives, the lives of many people affected.

I want to take the opportunity to salute a hero, a hero who testified last week on health care at the Rules Committee, Mr. Ady Barkan.

Ady Barkan is a hero to us.  As I said, two weeks ago – it was two weeks – a man, he suffers from ALS, but speaking out for better health care, with courage, he testified before the committee.

Ady said, ‘I was healthy a year ago.  I was running on the beach.  I’m 33 years old.  I have an 18-month-old son, Carl, and out of nowhere I was diagnosed with ALS which means, as you know, has a life expectancy of three to four years.  No treatment, no cure.  Like so many others, Rachel’ – that’s his wife – ‘and I had to fight with our insurers, which has issued outrageous denials instead of covering benefits we’ve paid for.  We have so little time left together.  Yet, our system forces us to waste it dealing with bills and bureaucracy.  That is why I’m here today urging you to build more rational, fair, efficient, effective system.’

That was Ady testifying two weeks ago.  Since then, Ady lost his grandmother, Dina Abramov, and our sympathy goes out to him.  Congratulations to her for having such a magnificent and courageous grandson.

But, Ady has been here so many times with our Little Lobbyists that have pre-existing conditions, with our – with many of the communities that represent people with diagnoses that need prescription drugs and cannot afford them.

And so, in the coming weeks and months, Democrats will continue our action to strengthen health protections for people like Ady, the Little Lobbyists and others because this is life or death.  It’s certainly quality of life.

And now our Democratic House today is proud to pass the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Cost Act.  Congresswoman Blunt Rochester, with this we’ll promote competition among – with generics, and reverse the Republican sabotage that we have seen.

Mr. Speaker, when we passed the Affordable Care Act, it was absolutely necessary that we do so, even if everyone in our country approved and loved their insurer and happy with their health care, which was not the case.  But even if they did, it was essential that we passed the Affordable Care Act because we could not sustain the cost of health care in our country at the time.

The cost to an individual, to a family, to small business, to corporate America, was paying a big part of the bill and to the public sector, which was a tremendous burden.  And with the Affordable Care Act, we were able to lower the rate of increase of health care costs in our country.

But one sector, one segment of the health care arena that was – that we did not conquer was the cost of prescription drugs, which continues to contribute to the increase of health care costs in our country.  That is the main reason health care costs are high: costs of prescription drugs.

So, I salute the Chairman and the Committee and Anna Eshoo, Chair of the Subcommittee, but the distinguished Chairman of the full Committee for his legislation today which helps to lower the cost of prescription drugs to families, to people, to individuals, to families, to everyone as a part in funding the good health of the American people.

This is really essential, and it is a fight.  And it is a fight, but we are taking it one piece at a time.

The reason it had to be combined with other bills is because it had to be paid for.

Our Republican colleagues salute the first part of the bill where we encourage competition among generics, this, that and the other, but want to walk away from the part of the bill that is essential: paying for the legislation.  So, we want to be very, very responsible in all of this.

The distinguished Ranking Member of the – no, you didn’t say this.  One of our colleagues on the Floor earlier said that this bill was going to go die in hell or some place, I don’t know where.

And they actually, the distinguished – well, not so in this case, but the Leader, the Republican Leader of the Senate said he’s the grim reaper and all these bills will die, designating the Senate a graveyard for legislation that will help the good health of the American people, lower costs for them, improve their lives.  We passed here – but he talked about everything.

I have some news for the distinguished Leader in the Senate, the Republican Leader, Mr. McConnell.  The support for this legislation and these bills is alive and well among the American people.  He will be hearing from them because this legislation, these bills are a matter of life and death and certainly quality of life for America’s working families.

So, we will never limit the aspirations and the meeting the needs of the American people that might be legislatively acceptable in the minds in the United States Senate, but we will recognize that responsibility to not only pass boldest common denominator but do so what honors President Lincoln told us, ‘Public sentiment is everything.  Public sentiment: you can pass almost everything, without it almost practically nothing.’

But in order for the public sentiment to weigh in, the public has to know.  And passing legislation of this kind is a strong message and our advocates, whether it’s the Little Lobbyists, whether it’s those affected by so many aspects that the Republican leadership is out to be a sabotage – that the Trump Administration is out to sabotage, whether in the Congress or in the courts.

We are taking it to the court, as we are in the Supreme Court.  We will fight them in the Supreme Court and also in the court of public opinion.

This is very, very important to the health but also the financial well-being of America’s working families.

So, I salute you, Mr. Chairman, for this legislation.

I urge everyone to vote for it.  And I know that you do have bipartisan support for some parts of the bill.  I hope it will apply to all of it so that it really can work.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.