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:
“Yesterday, Friday, 14,000 more Americans lost their health insurance. Another 14,000 will lose their coverage today. It’ll happen again tomorrow, again on Monday and again the day after that.
“The American people don’t get weekends off from this injustice. Bankruptcy doesn’t keep bankers’ hours. The bills don’t go away just because it’s a Saturday; the pain doesn’t go away just because it’s a Sunday.
“And so our work continues this weekend – and it will continue until we give this nation’s citizens a health insurance system that works for them.
“Tens of millions of Americans – those with coverage and those without – know all too well that right now, our system is broken. They don’t need academic studies or congressional investigations or politicians’ speeches to tell them our health care is in critical condition. Every day, they live with it – and every day, some even die from it.
“Next year is just around the corner – just weeks away. And in the new year, a whole lot more Americans are about to learn just how broken our system is.
“You see, one of the largest private insurance companies in America made a lot of money last year – more than a billion dollars, in fact. Its chairman and CEO took home at least $100 million of that money himself.
“This health care company is going to make a healthy profit again this year. But its executives decided the profit they’re making isn’t quite big enough. So this multibillion-dollar company found a clever way to make sure next year’s bottom line is even bigger: it’s raising its rates.
“As you might expect, those higher premiums are going to be too expensive for many. How many? It could be as many as 650,000 people.
“That’s more than the entire populations of North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. It’s more than the entire populations of Baltimore and Boston and Denver and Seattle. How many people is this one company willing to drop? You could count every man, woman and child in Las Vegas and still have almost 100,000 people left over.
“But here’s the worst part: That shocking estimate comes directly from the president of the company himself. The means the company devised this strategy, crunched the numbers and saw how many American families it was going to hurt. Then the bosses shrugged their shoulders and decided to go ahead with it anyway.
“We would hardly stand idly by if every citizen of one of our states were left out in the cold. We wouldn’t ever consider doing nothing if every resident of one of our biggest cities were hung out to dry. But that’s the equivalent of what just one company is doing – just one of countless health insurance companies.
“Others may suggest such a system is just fine the way it is, but Democrats know they’re only deluding themselves.
“This summer, the junior Senator from South Carolina said that we just need to – quote – ‘get out of the way and allow the market to work.’ The market sure worked for insurance companies this year. The problem is it didn’t work for people.
“Then just last week, my distinguished counterpart, the Republican Leader, called the health care crisis ‘manufactured’ – his words, not mine. In one sense, he’s right: It was manufactured by greedy insurance companies like the one I mentioned earlier, companies that claim to be in the business of helping people stay healthy, but that raise families’ rates on a whim, with concern for nothing but their own executives’ personal bank accounts.
“The question before the United States Senate is how many more of our own citizens we will sentence to such a fate. How much longer will we look the other way while our neighbors suffer right in front of our eyes? How much more are we willing to charge those fortunate enough to have insurance in order to cover the many who have none? Right now, families with coverage spend at least $1,000 a year more than they would need to if uninsured Americans could go to a doctor instead of the emergency room.
“I ask my colleagues, How much longer will we enable the insurance companies to deny health care to the sick? And how much longer will we let these companies force thousands upon thousands of Americans into bankruptcy while they rake in millions and millions of dollars?
“That’s the reality. Opponents of progress have tried to drown out this truth with distortions, distractions and dishonesty. But as John Adams observed, facts are stubborn things.
“Here’s one of the most startling facts: Last year, 750,000 Americans filed bankruptcy. Seventy percent of them did so because of medical expenses – and 62 percent of those who filed bankruptcy because of medical expenses already carry insurance.
“In the year World War II ended, Harry Truman warned that so many of us were so vulnerable to what he called ‘the economic effects of sickness.’ In the 64 years since, it’s only gotten worse.
“Here are some more facts – facts about what our bill will do:
· It will make sure nearly every American can afford quality health care. That means 94 percent of Americans as a result of this bill, and 98 percent when you include our seniors on Medicare.
It will not only protect those seniors’ Medicare, it will make it stronger.
It will make sure that more than 30 million Americans who do not now have health care will have it soon.
· It will not add a dime to the deficit. Quite the opposite, in fact: We will cut the deficit by $130 billion in the first 10 years and by as much as three-quarters of a trillion dollars in the first 20.
“And we’re making this bill even stronger:
· We made it better this week with an amendment that makes sure women can get the mammograms, check-ups and other preventive tests they need to stay healthy, and get them at no cost.
· We made it better by reaffirming our commitment to seniors who rely on Medicare and Medicare Advantage, guaranteeing they will always get the care they need and the quality of life they deserve.
We made it better by ensuring that the money dedicated to the health care of America’s seniors and of people with disabilities should be used only for those precise purposes.
And today, we will continue to make it better with an amendment by Senator Lincoln of Arkansas that stops irresponsible tax breaks for millionaire health insurance executives and starts to use companies’ revenue to strengthen Medicare.
“The fact is that our bill will, in short, save lives, save money and save Medicare.
“We will make it possible for each and every American to afford to live a healthy life. We can’t afford not to.”