Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks this afternoon on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“As the health care debate was heating up last summer, a Republican Senator who thinks we don’t need health insurance reform suggested we just ‘get out of the way and allow the market to work.’
“In other words, he said, let’s do nothing. We all know what this means. ‘Allowing the market to work’ is code for letting greedy insurance companies – companies that care more about profits than people – get richer while people who can already barely afford their coverage lose it altogether.
“Well as the market continues to do its thing – as insurance companies continue to run wild – last week brought the latest evidence of why doing nothing is so dangerous.
“A large insurance company in California, right next door to Nevada, has just announced two reckless decisions:
“One, it is raising its rates by as much as 39 percent – that’s many, many times the rate of inflation.
“And two, it is reserving the right to raise them again whenever they feel like it – instead of just once a year, as is the common, current practice.
“What does that really mean? It means that more people won’t be able to afford any coverage at all. It means more people will be living just one accident, one injury or one pink slip away from losing everything. It means our economy, already weighed down by rising health costs, will have a harder time recovering. It means those who need health care the most are the ones who are going to be able to afford it the least.
“A lot of companies are hurting in this economy. But this California health care company isn’t one of them. Last year, its parent company raked in eight times what it made in the same quarter just the year before.
“And it’s not the first time we’ve seen this happen. Just two months ago, another exceedingly profitable company raised its rates with the full knowledge that it would mean 650,000 people would no longer be able to afford coverage. That’s the equivalent of every man, woman and child who lives in Las Vegas, plus 100,000 more people.
“That’s what happens when we allow the health insurance market to work. That’s what happens when we sit back and wait for insurance-company executives to act out of the goodness of their hearts – instead of admitting they are acting in the interest of their wallets. That’s why we need health reform like the bills already passed by the House and the Senate that will rein in insurance company abuses and make coverage more affordable for millions.
“Health care costs take up a larger slice of our economy than ever before. And it’s not slowing down: In less than a decade, it’s going to be one out of every five dollars we spend. In less than a decade, Americans will spend half of their family income on health premiums.
“But it doesn’t have to be that way. These Californians don’t have to be priced out of a healthy life. We don’t have to let greedy health insurance executives drag down our future.
“I once again encourage Republicans to work with us in good faith to fix our broken system. I encourage them to listen to the American people – two-thirds of whom said just this week they want Congress to finish the job.
“And I encourage every Senator to condemn this insurance company’s greed. If they are not willing to do so, perhaps they would be willing to call the Californians who can no longer afford coverage and explain why corporate profits are more important than their health.”