Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 1425, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, House Democrats’ For The People legislation to build on the Affordable Care Act to lower health costs and prescription drug prices. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
I thank you for that recognition. I thank the gentleman for his tremendous leadership in bringing this important and historic legislation to the Floor. He has been a part of advancing lower costs for health care and better benefits for all Americans in his career in Congress.
Thank you, Mr. Scott, for your tremendous leadership as Chair of the Education and Labor Committee, for the opportunity you are giving us today. I salute you and Chairman Pallone, the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, who has played such an important role all along in all of this, as well as Mr. Richie Neal, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, so much an important part. These three committees of jurisdiction, and the members of their committees, have been so essential to its excellence and to its success.
I also salute our Freshmen who have been leading the charge to lower health care costs and strengthen health care protections every step of the way, from the first day they arrived in the Congress. In the election this past – in 2018, Democrats made a pledge to the American people: For The People. We would do three things. For The People, we would lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and preserving the pre-existing medical condition [protections]. We are doing that today. For The People, we are to not only lowering health care costs, we had bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green way, good-paying jobs. We’ll be doing that the rest of the week. For The People, we would be having cleaner government. And that is what we did at the end of last week with the Justice in Policing Act, as well as part of our H.R. 1, voting for statehood for the District of Columbia and certainly more to come on the cleaner government as we fight for voting at home and removing obstacles to participation.
But here, today, we are focused on that first For The People priority. Access to affordable care is a matter of life and death. That's so self-evident as we see every day in the COVID-19 crisis, which has killed more than 125,000 Americans, infecting 2.5 million Americans and that has left tens of millions of people without jobs.
As Dr. King once said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.’ Yes. As lives are shattered by the coronavirus, the protections of the Affordable Care Act are more important now, more than ever. And this is a health justice issue.
Democrats, with this bill, will strengthen America's health and financial security during this time of crisis and for years to come. It lowers Americans' health care coverage, significantly increasing the Affordable Care Act's affordability subsidies to be more generous and cover more middle-class families. It negotiates lower prescription drugs, drawing from our H.R. 3 legislation, to ensure that Americans no longer have to pay more for our medicines that big pharma charges for the same drugs overseas.
This has been a long-term goal of Democrats in the Congress. In 2006, when we were running and won the Majority, our For The People agenda, that equivalent agenda was ‘A New Direction for America: Six for ’06,’ and we had six bills we said would pass immediately after obtaining the Majority. Well, we passed all six of them in the House of Representatives. Five of them became law. Only one of them did not: the law enabling the Secretary of HHS to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices.
This has been a fight over the years that we continue to make it because it is central to not only to the health, but financial health and security of America's working families. In addition, this legislation expands coverage and pushes hold-out states to adopt Medicaid expansion for the 4.8 million cruelly excluded from the coverage. It combats inequities in health coverage faced by communities of color, expanding more affordable coverage to vulnerable populations and fighting the maternal mortality epidemic. And it cuts down on junk plans. They are such a rip: ‘Let me just pay you every – all the time for my health insurance but you won’t be there for me when I need care.’ So, it cracks down on those junk plans and strengthens coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
What is interesting in this whole debate is to hear the President and Members on the other side of the aisle say, oh, they are all for protecting pre-existing conditions. Oh really? Then why are you in the United States Supreme Court to overturn them?
And, now, just back to this bill, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, our legislation that we have on the Floor today would help well over – would lower the costs for well over 17 million more Americans and safeguard the Affordable Care Act's life-saving protections for the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.
When they say they are for allowing people with pre-existing conditions to get coverage, they don't say at what costs. This is one of the biggest differences – well, with stiff competition – but one of the biggest differences between Democrats and Republicans, we guarantee affordability and protect the pre-existing medical condition as not being an obstacle to access. They are in court trying to overturn it.
Sadly, and this is a stark contrast as I pointed out, as Democrats unveiled our legislation last week, President Trump went to the Court doubling down on his lawsuit to tear down the ACA and dismantle every one of its protections, including the pre-existing medical condition benefit. At a time when families need health care more than ever, the President is trying to strip protections from about 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions and take coverage away from 23 million Americans. That does not even go into what he is trying to do to the enhanced benefit that all Americans with health care enjoy.
We need to build on the progress of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act to lower health costs and prescription drug costs, not rip Americans’ health care in the middle of a pandemic. What sense does that make?
One day – on day one of this Congress, led by Representative Allred, the House voted to throw our legal weight in [defeating] this lawsuit. Yet, 190 Republicans voted against that Resolution, choosing to be fully complicit in the President's attempt to tear away health protections. We continue to call on the President to abandon his lawsuit to destroy the Affordable Care Act and urge him, instead, to call on the fourteen states who have refused to expand Medicaid, to do so.
Doesn't it just make sense at a time of a pandemic? It's always important. It would have been amusing if this were not deadly serious to hear Senator Cornyn say, ‘Well, these people who’ve lost their jobs because of this pandemic can always sign up for the Affordable Care Act.’ Really, but you’re trying to take it down? The Administration has a responsibility to defend the law of the land, not to tear it down.
Today, Members of Congress have the choice: to strengthen America's health care protections and lower health care costs or be complicit, once again I use that word, in President Trump's campaign to dismantle families’ health care. Make no mistake, a vote against this bill is a vote to weaken Americans' health and financial security during a pandemic.
In so many languages – and my mother used to always say, I remember her saying this as I was growing up: ‘If you don't have your health, you don't have anything.’ Health is so central. Well it’s, as you see, the American people place a high value on it when they say they don't want to go out too soon, to jeopardize their health or the others they have at home.
So, in every language, when people salute each other, they salute people to their health: the Spanish say ‘¡Salud!’; the Dutch say ‘Proost!’; the French say ‘Salut!’ – ‘Sante!’; the Germans say ‘Prost!’; the Irish say – now, this is hard because Gaelic is a hard language – ‘Sláinte!’; the Italians, I can say that better, ‘Salute!’; in Hebrew ‘L’Chaim!’ It’s all about life and health. That's the salute. Everybody knows it is centrally important.
With this bill, Democrats in the House are offering our salute to good health to the American people, and we hope the Republicans would join us in that salute to good health to the American people.
With that, I urge a strong vote for the Patient Protection Affordable Care Enhancement Act, for the people, for the children, for the future. With that, I yield back.