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:
“There is nothing the American people want more than for us to act.
“They want us to stop greedy insurance companies from denying health care to the sick and taking away your coverage at the exact time you need it most. They want us to make it illegal for these multibillion-dollar companies to say, I’m sorry, your high cholesterol or heart disease or hay fever might hurt you, but it also hurts my bottom line – so you’re on your own.
“They want us to make sure they can get the tests they need to prevent diseases before they start. Women want to be able to afford the screenings that can catch breast cancer, and men want to be able to afford those that can catch prostate cancer.
“Seniors want to be able to afford their prescription drugs. They want to know their Medicare benefits will always be protected.
“The American people want us to make it possible for everyone to afford insurance. They know that until we do, those who do have it will keep paying extra to cover those who don’t.
“They want us to cut the waste and fraud out of the health care system so that everyone saves money.
“They want us to make sure they can choose their own doctors, their own hospitals and the health plan that’s right for them.
“And they want us to guarantee them they will be able to afford health care even if they lose or change their job.
“That’s why we’ve written a good bill that will make it possible for every single American to afford to stay healthy. It’s a bill that will make health insurance more affordable and health insurance companies more accountable. And it will do all this while reducing the deficit.
“Yet while the American people want us to act, our Republican colleagues in the Senate want nothing more than for us to do nothing.
“And that’s why Republicans have sounded a familiar cry: Slow down, stop everything and start over.
“As we have seen again and again, these Republicans like to pretend America’s health care crisis isn’t a problem. They choose to ignore the fact that unfair and unchecked insurance company policies are forcing the very people these Senators represent to lose their homes, file for bankruptcy and even die.
“I know this country has never had a place for those who hope for failure. So here’s whom I would rather listen to: the men and women in my state of Nevada who write me every day.
“They are hardworking people who play by the rules and don’t understand why their health insurance system doesn’t do the same. They write from the heart, and these are some of the stories they’ve shared:
“A woman named Lisa lives in Gardnerville, Nevada, with her two daughters, both of whom are in elementary school. The youngest suffers seizures and her teachers think she has a learning disability.
“Because of her family history, Lisa, the girls’ mom, is at high risk for cervical cancer. Though she is supposed to get an exam every three months, she goes just 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 to me ended with a simple plea. It wasn’t, ‘Slow down, stop everything and start over.’ It was, ‘We want to go to the doctor.’
“Here’s another: Braden lives in Sparks, Nevada. He works 55-hour weeks to support his family, but it just barely pays the bills. It’s 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 have one fear – and it’s not that the Senate is doing its job. His fear is, as he wrote, ‘if I was seriously sick or injured, I would lose it all.’
“And here’s one more: Michelle is a 60-year-old woman from Fallon, Nevada. Like so many in my state, she moved to Nevada in the last 10 years. And like so many Americans who keep our economy going, she’s self-employed and has to find her own health insurance plan.
“But she only has two choices. One is a company that won’t give Michelle a policy because she takes three prescription medications – the insurance company only allows you to have two. So Michelle is stuck buying insurance from the other company, the only one that will sell her a plan.
“When Michelle moved to Nevada a few years ago, she picked the cheapest plan and her premium was $100 a month. Today that same plan costs her $264 a month – and that doesn’t include dental or vision insurance.
“Michelle doesn’t want us to do nothing. She demands that we act. In the meantime, Michelle wrote, she’s ‘waiting to be old enough for Medicare to afford the surgery my doctor says I need, as I know with my current policy it will cost more than I can afford.’ People should not have to count down the days until they are old enough to be healthy.
“These are real stories from real people with real problems. They aren’t written with a political objective in mind or a partisan axe to grind.
“They are written by people who know that insurance companies discriminate against their policyholders, but not based on party affiliation. They are written by citizens who know this crisis is bigger than politics, and too big to ignore. They are written by Americans who just want to be able to live a healthy life without going broke.
“My colleagues on the other side want us to slow down, stop everything and start over. But the course of our country goes in only one direction. We move forward. We make progress. And when citizens call on their leaders to make their lives better, we answer, and we act.”