Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement this morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Every day, like every Senator, I get mail from men and women across my state.
“People offer advice and criticism, suggestions and stories. They are making sure their representative democracy works the way it should.
“If anyone is watching at home and wondering whether the representatives you send to Washington actually read the many letters you send here after us, I can tell you that we do.
“And I can tell you that on no other issue have the letters you sent me underscored the urgent need to act more than the health care nightmares you have shared.
“Lisa lives in Gardnerville, Nevada, with her two daughters, ages 10 and 7. The youngest suffers seizures and her teachers think she has a learning disability.
“Because of her family history, Lisa is at high risk for cervical cancer. Though she is supposed to get an exam every three months, she goes once a year to save money.
“When Lisa lost her job, she lost her health coverage. Now both Lisa and her daughter miss out on the tests and preventative medicine that could keep them healthy. Her long letter ended with a simple plea: ‘We want to go to the doctor.’
“Braden lives in Sparks, Nevada. The 55-hour weeks he works to support his family just barely covers his bills. But it is not enough to buy him health insurance.
“Braden owes a hospital $12,000 for a trip to the emergency room – the only place he could go without heath care.
“Braden is brave. In his letter, he doesn’t dread the debt he carries, or grumble about how hard he works. But he does fear that ‘if I was seriously sick or injured, I would lose it all.’
“Alysia is a 21-year-old woman from Las Vegas. She needs surgery for the kidney disease with which she has suffered since birth. But because recently lost her job, she can’t afford health care.
“Alysia has done everything she can to try to get help. Medicaid tells her she doesn’t qualify because she isn’t pregnant, doesn’t have children and doesn’t have disability insurance.
“Insurance companies refuse to cover Alysia, calling her kidney disorder a pre-existing condition. Everyone else calls this a tragedy.
“These stories are as real as they come. The letters are written by people who play by the rules and don’t understand why their health care system doesn’t. They are written from the heart. And many are written through pain, tears and uncertainty.
“Sadly, they are not unique. Many, many Americans, like Lisa, skip routine medical checkups – or, like Braden, live just one accident away from bankruptcy – or, like Alysia, fear for the worst while they fight through the red tape.
“Our Republican colleagues like things just the way they are. They have committed themselves to a strategy of misinformation and misrepresentation.
“But we are committed to our constituents. We are committed to delivering on the promises we made and the oaths we swore to those who gave us the incomparable honor of serving our states.
“We are committed to:
- lowering the high costs of health care;
- ensuring every American has access to that quality, affordable care; and
- letting people choose their own doctors, hospitals and health plans.
“We believe in protecting existing coverage when it is good, improving it when it is not, and guaranteeing health care for the millions – like Lisa, Braden and Alysia – who have none.
“While our Republican colleagues debate semantics and deploy scare tactics, the health of our citizens is at stake. Sometimes it’s hard to blame those who send us the most personal of letters and wonder if the envelope they seal will ever be opened again.”