Washington, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor this morning. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Here are two truths about the historic health reform bill before us: The first is that it will save lives, save money and save Medicare. And while that’s a pretty good start, the second fact is that there is always room for improvement in the bill. Of course, that’s what this legislative process is all about.
“Senator Mikulski has offered an amendment that does both. Her proposal would improve this bill by making sure women can get – at no cost – the preventive screenings they need to stay healthy. These are important screenings that can catch potential problems as early as possible. That will save both lives and money.
“As health care premiums rise higher and higher every year – far faster than incomes in this country – more and more women are simply skipping the important preventive care they need. They’re skipping screenings for cervical cancer and breast cancer. They’re skipping screenings for pregnancy. They’re even skipping annual check-ups, doctor visits that could flag serious problems like postpartum depression and domestic violence.
“Why is this happening? Do women simply care less about their wellbeing today? Of course not. Are diseases on the decline? Of course not. The only reason women are putting off going to the doctor is that in our broken health-care delivery system, it simply costs too much to stay healthy.
“Senator Mikulski’s amendment also makes clear that the decision of whether and when to get a mammogram should be made by a patient and a doctor. It shouldn’t be made by an insurance company, by Members of Congress or by someone you’ve never met.
“No matter what independent task forces recommend and no matter what some Republican Senators falsely claim, our bill offers free preventive services to millions of women who are being discriminated against by their insurance companies.
“Senator Mikulski has long been a leader who has looked out for women’s health. With this amendment, she does that once again.
“I’m sorry to see Republicans deliberately confuse the facts about women’s health, particularly as they relate to mammograms. It shows just how desperate some of them are to distract the American people from the real debate – and from the fact that they have no vision for fixing our broken health care system.
“I’m even more sorry to say it’s part of a larger trend. In recent days, they have been distorting the data from the Congressional Budget Office – an independent agency many Republicans are on record praising – about two of this nation’s top priorities: reforming our health insurance system and helping our economy recover.
“First, on health care: the CBO said yesterday that the majority of American families who buy insurance in the new marketplace we’ll create – called the health insurance exchange – will see their premiums go down. And for many, they’ll go down by almost 60 percent.
“CBO’s experts aren’t the first to recognize these benefits. MIT’s Jonathan Gruber, who is one of the most respected economists in the country, said this in today’s Washington Post: ‘Here’s a bill that reduces the deficit, covers 30 million people and has the promise of lowering premiums in the long run.’
“That means that millions of Americans who today cannot afford coverage – or whose medical bills drive them to financial ruin – will be able to afford to stay healthy. And it means that if we don’t reform health care, millions more will find themselves in bankruptcy, bad health or worse.
“Second, on economic recovery: the CBO also said yesterday that the extraordinary steps we took to bring our economy back from the brink has created or saved hundreds of thousands of jobs – its estimate reaches as high as 1.6 million jobs, each one a direct result of our economic recovery plan. The same report also said that our country’s gross domestic product has gone up by as much as 3.2 percentage points higher than it would have if we hadn’t acted.
“Both of these facts tell us the same thing: not acting is not an option.
“But some of my Republican colleagues prefer to close their eyes and ears to this reality. They prefer to play politics than to do what is right, and what is necessary. They are content to just say ‘no,’ without offering any constructive alternatives in response.
“That’s no way to lead. And it’s no way to lead our country or our constituents back to health.”