Washington, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor this morning regarding The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“We continue making progress toward making it possible for every American to afford to live a healthy life.
“Senators continue to work together toward that goal because even though we may have differences of opinion on the details, we all share the strong belief in the differences we can make for the American people.
“We all know our current system is beyond broken, and we know the citizens of this country demand that we fix it.
“We know this because they tell us – in letters, in phone calls, in the aisles of the supermarkets back home.
“Those who oppose making health insurance more affordable and making health insurance companies more accountable would like you to believe that’s not the case – and they’re being led by the insurance industry.
“They want you to think that the American people are happy when these greedy insurance companies deny health care to the sick and take away their coverage at the exact moment they need it most.
“They’d like you to believe that the American people don’t mind hearing a multibillion-dollar company tell them: I’m sorry, your diabetes or heart condition might hurt you, but it also hurts my bottom line – so you’re on your own.
“They want you to believe that women gladly pay more than they should for the screenings that can catch breast cancer – that men gladly pay more than they should for the tests that can catch prostate cancer – and that seniors gladly pay much, much more than they should for their prescription drugs.
“Those who are trying to slow the Senate and stop reform want you to believe the American people don’t mind paying hidden taxes to cover the uninsured – don’t mind the waste and fraud rampant in the health care system – and don’t mind losing their health insurance if they lose their job.
“Well, we know that’s not the case. The people we represent tell us so:
“Mike Tracy lives in North Las Vegas, Nevada. His 26-year-old son has been an insulin-dependent diabetic since he was an infant. The insurance Mike’s son gets through work won’t cover his treatments, and the Tracys can’t afford to buy more coverage on their own.
“But this family’s troubles are about more than just money. Since they couldn’t afford to treat their son’s diabetes, it developed into Addison’s disease – which of course they can’t afford to treat either – and which could be fatal.
“This is what Mike wrote me just this past Friday, ‘I don’t know what to pray for first: that I will die before my son will so I don’t have to bear the burden, or that I outlive him so I can provide support to his family when he is gone.’
“This shouldn’t be a choice any American should have to make – and when given the chance to help people like Mike, our choice should be easy.
“Here’s another one: Ellen O’Rourke wrote to me last Tuesday about her friends, the Hidalgos of Incline Village, Nevada, a town on the shores of Lake Tahoe. The Hidalgos’ two-year-old daughter, Lexie Mae, has a cancer of the eye that could cost her vision or even her life. But Lexie Mae’s parents don’t have health insurance, and are counting on friends to help pay for their daughter’s mounting medical bills. They’re also counting on us to lower the cost of health care so they can afford their own.
“Another letter I got last week came from Elizabeth Parsons. She teaches music at an elementary school in Reno and volunteers after school at a dance and drama theater in town. Ms. Parsons is 60 years old and was planning to retire at the end of this school year.
“But, as she wrote me last Thursday, ‘Unfortunately that plan has been postponed indefinitely for one reason only: I can’t afford to retire because of the skyrocketing increases in health insurance.’
“Ms. Parsons has done so much for her community. Now her country’s leaders should do something for her: We should make sure her decision about whether to retire doesn’t hinge on how expensive it is to buy health care on her own.
“A gentleman named Walt Cousineau from Elko, Nevada, wrote me last Monday to tell me about his wife. She had a heart attack three Decembers ago, and health insurance companies are using that as an excuse to charge her almost $2,000 a month for coverage. They call it a pre-existing condition.
“She’s not old enough yet for Medicare, but Walt is. He’s 68 – and he had to go back to work to put her on his group insurance plan. Now Walt’s asking us to go to work for him, and asking us to make sure no one’s health history can make staying healthy in the future more expensive.
“Ken Hansen wrote me last Friday from Mesquite, Nevada, on our border with Arizona. He has chronic heart problems and parts of his feet have been amputated. But Ken can’t go to a doctor because he makes too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford private insurance.
“I want to share with the Senate exactly what Ken wrote me: ‘I am very frustrated because it seems that my only hope is that I die very soon, because I cannot afford to stay alive.’
“Those are his words – that his only hope is to die. How can we look away? How can we possibly do nothing? This isn’t about balance sheets or graphs; it’s not about contracts or fine print; it’s not about politics or partisanship. This is about life and death in America.
“Each story is more heartbreaking than the last. Each of these Nevadans has more than enough on his or her mind. And yet each of these citizens took time out of his or her day to beg their leaders to act.
“Mike Tracy, the father of the young man with diabetes and Addison’s disease, ended his letter to me just a few days ago with this plea: ‘Democrats need health care. Republicans need health care. Independents need health care. All Americans need health care. Get it done.’
“We cannot let them down, and we will not let them down.
“Those trying to kill this reform have made it clear they will do anything to stop us. They can recite recycled talking points to their hearts’ content.
“But as long as Mike Tracy’s son might die from a disease we know how to treat, I won’t let anyone stand in our way.
“As long as Lexie Mae’s parents have to borrow from their friends to take their daughter to the doctor, I won’t take no for an answer.
“As long as Elizabeth Parsons can’t afford to retire, Walt Cousineau can’t afford to stay retired and Ken Hansen says he can’t afford to stay alive, I’m not going to stop fighting for them.”