Roybal-Allard's remarks on healthcare

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-34) submitted the following statement into the congressional record in support of last week's House-passed health care reform bill:"Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, a bill that is undoubtedly the most important single piece of legislation being considered by this 111th Congress, and possibly by any Congress in the last decade. I commend Chairman Waxman from the Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Miller from the Education and Labor Committee, and Chairman Rangel from the Ways and Means Committee, and all of their dedicated staff who have invested so much time and energy into crafting a bill that addresses the complex and vast failures of our current health care system. This has been without a doubt the most transparent and inclusive legislative effort that I have seen in my seventeen years in Congress, and I commend Speaker Pelosi for her tenacious leadership in bringing this bill to the floor. The Affordable Health Care for America Act is not a perfect bill. With an issue that impacts so many stakeholders, and involves so many competing interests, it is doubtful any single legislative effort could ever satisfy everyone and address all the problems. But the fact of the matter is that we cannot afford to do nothing. Study after study has shown that under our current system things will get worse unless we act now. If we are not successful in passing this health reform bill, Americans face a 50 - 50 chance of losing their insurance in the next 10 years, the average family will have their already prohibitive health costs increase an average of $1800 each year, and the rising price of medications may become unaffordable even for those with insurance. H.R. 3962 will help end this cycle of skyrocketing health care costs and represents a milestone in our nation's history by finally framing healthcare as a universal right for all Americans. With the passage of this bill we will improve the quality and affordability of health services, prioritize prevention and the reduction of health disparities, and take the necessary albeit difficult steps to rein in the escalating costs of health care in this country. I will vote for H.R. 3962 for many reasons. The most important is that it will provide access to affordable health care to the millions of uninsured individuals in this country. In my 34th Congressional District of California, where the average annual household income is less than $36,000, and where 40 per cent of my constituents are currently uninsured, this bill will provide access to health care for 240,000 more people. The bill also helps families in our country who have health insurance, but are struggling with high premiums and uncovered health care costs. Last year 1,120 families in my district were forced to file health care-related bankruptcies. H.R. 3962 will protect individuals like them from catastrophic out of pocket costs through an annual allowable personal expense cap. This bill will protect our seniors from the Medicare Part D donut hole by reducing 50% of the cost for brand name drugs and gradually eliminating the donut hole altogether. This will be extremely beneficial for the 4,100 seniors in my district who each year hit the Medicare Part D donut hole requiring them to pay the full cost of medications they can't afford. H.R. 3962 will help make small businesses more competitive in providing health insurance to their employees by providing tax credits up to 50% of the cost of the insurance. In my district approximately 15,000 small businesses would qualify for these credits. As chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Health Task Force, I commend the Affordable Health Care for America Act for its efforts to reduce health disparities and improve minority access to culturally and linguistically competent health care. The bill expands Community Health Centers which have been a cornerstone of primary care services in communities of color, and incorporates critical health disparities language guided by the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009. In addition, the Manager's Amendment strengthens the focus of eliminating health disparities by codifying the Office of Minority Health and establishing Minority Health Offices across all Department of Health and Human Services agencies. As co-chair of the Congressional Study Group on Public Health, I am particularly pleased that the Affordable Health Care for America Act finally prioritizes prevention and public health in this country. The bill ensures full coverage of evidence based preventive health services, and establishes a Public Health Investment Fund that will support core public health infrastructure, help finance the delivery of community-based prevention and wellness services, and provide grants to train the next generation of Public Health workforce professionals. Madam Speaker, I fully believe that the Affordable Health Care for America Act is a bill that will transform our healthcare system and will play a determining role in the collective health and fiscal viability of our region, our state, and our nation. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting YES for this bill today, to ensure that our families and communities will have the promise of a healthier tomorrow."

********** Published: November 13, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 30