Washington, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks at a rally this afternoon to celebrate the introduction of historic health insurance reform legislation, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“By now you’ve heard and read about what the Senate’s historic health reform plan will do: It will save lives, save money and save Medicare.
“And you’ve heard how it will do each of these things: By guaranteeing affordable care for every American, slashing the deficit and rebuilding our economy.
“So you’ve heard about where we’re going. I want to take a moment to appreciate just how very far we’ve come. This bill is not just a milestone along a journey of a few months or a few years. We have been working to reform health care since the first half of the last century.
“As the Senate heads down the homestretch, I’d like to read just a short piece from a long letter by a former Senator about the urgency of action. This man wrote to Congress, and I quote:
‘Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. The time has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and that protection.’
“He went on to write:
‘People with low or moderate incomes do not get the same medical attention as those with high incomes. The poor have more sickness, but they get less medical care.
‘We should resolve now that the health of this nation is a national concern; that financial barriers in the way of attaining health shall be removed; that the health of all its citizens deserves the help of all the nation.’
“That former Senator was Harry Truman. And he wrote that letter to Congress on November 19, 1945 – just months into his Presidency, and exactly 64 years ago today.
“He knew that the health of the American people is linked to the health of the American economy.
“But since President Truman demanded that we make it easier for every American to afford a healthy life, we have only added millions more to the number of those who cannot – and only added billions more to our deficit.
“This is how long we’ve waited: A man or a woman who turned one year old the day Truman issued his call to action – but who has lived his or her entire life without the ability to afford health care as it got more expensive each year – would just today – November 19 – become eligible for Medicare.
“Generation after generation has called on us to fix this broken system, and we are now closer than ever to getting it done.
“What we do in the next few weeks will ensure that in the coming months, insurance companies will not be able to deny health care to the sick;
“It will ensure that in the coming years, families will not have to choose between their mortgage and their medicine;
“It will ensure that in the coming decades, we will leave our children a better inheritance than a deep deficit and a broken health care system.
“And it will ensure that 64 years from today, future Senators will read about this generation’s call to action not with apology, but with appreciation that we chose to be on the right side of history.”