Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor to mark the second anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Two years ago tomorrow, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.
It was the greatest single step in generations toward ensuring access to affordable, quality healthcare for every American – regardless of where they live or how much money they make.
Millions of Americans have already felt the benefits of this law.
Seniors are saving money on their prescriptions and checkups.
Insurance companies can no longer set arbitrary lifetime caps on benefits, putting millions of Americans one car accident or heart attack away from bankruptcy.
Children can no longer be denied insurance because they have a preexisting condition, a protection that will soon extend to all Americans.
And in two shorts years, virtually every man, woman and child in America will have access to health insurance they can afford and the vital care they need.
No longer will hundreds of millions of Americans live in fear of losing their insurance because they lose their job.
And no longer will tens of millions more rely on emergency room care – or go without care entirely – because they have no insurance at all.
Unfortunately, Republicans continue to target the rights and benefits guaranteed under this law.
If Republicans have their way, insurance companies will once again be allowed to deny care to a sick child because he or she has asthma or diabetes.
In Nevada, thousands of children with preexisting conditions would once again be at the whim of insurance companies that care more about making money than about making people better.
If Republicans have their way, young adults just out of college will be kicked off their parents’ insurance plans.
Almost 23,000 young adults in Nevada would once again have to defer their dreams to take jobs that offer health insurance – or else risk going without care.
If Republicans have their way, seniors will pay more for prescriptions and checkups.
More than 230,000 Nevada seniors would once again be forced to pay for wellness visits, cancer screenings and other preventive services.
And tens of thousands of seniors, who saved $12 million on prescription drugs last year, will once again be forced to choose between buying food and buying medicine.
If Republicans have their way, taxes will increase for small businesses. And so will the deficit.
Repealing health care reform would add $1.5 trillion to the federal debt.
But when Democrats undertook healthcare reform, it wasn’t just about saving money – it was about saving lives.
And while the numbers I’ve just discussed are very important, there is one number that matters more than all the others: 45,000.
That is the number of Americans who die every year because they lack health insurance.
That doesn’t include the tens of thousands more who are sick or dying because they have health insurance, but still can’t afford the care they need.
After the rest of the Affordable Care Act has taken effect over the next two years, no American will have to bear what President Lyndon Johnson called “the injustice which denies the miracle of healing to the old and to the poor.”
President Johnson knew that living in a country with the best medical care in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t access that care.
That’s why, almost 47 years ago, he signed Medicare into law.
On that day in July, President Johnson celebrated an American tradition that “calls upon us never to be indifferent toward despair. It commands us never to turn away from helplessness. It directs us never to ignore or to spurn those who suffer untended in a land that is bursting with abundance.”
I am pleased to say the Affordable Care Act continues that tradition.
This law makes certain that the richest nation in the world never again turns its back on the despair, helplessness and suffering of the least among us.
And it guarantees that no insurance company will ever again put a price tag on a human life.