February 27, 2010

From Speaker Pelosi's press release -- Pelosi Closing Remarks at Bipartisan Meeting at Blair House on Health Insurance Reform:

“Thank you very much, Mr. President. As one who has abided by the three and a half minute, I’m going to take a few seconds more now in closing to extend thanks to Mr. President for bringing us together, for your great leadership and without it, we would not be so very close to affordability, accountability for the insurance companies, and accessibility for so many more Americans to improve their health care, to lower their cost.

“Mr. President, I hearken back to that meeting a year ago. At that time, Senator Grassley questioned you about the public option and you said: ‘The public option is one way to keep the insurance companies honest and to increase competition.’ If you have a better way, put it on the table. Well, I bring that up, because we have come such a long way — we’re talking about how close we are on this, how far apart we are in here.

“But as a representative of the House of Representatives, I want you to know that we were there that day in support of a public option which would save $120 billion, keep the insurance companies honest, and increase competition. We've come a long way to agreeing to a Republican idea. The exchanges — Senator Enzi has been a leader in that, Senator Snowe along with Senator Durbin had legislation to that effect and bipartisan, because insurance companies opposed the public option. They couldn't take the competition.

“We have in our bill market-oriented encouragement to the private sector initiatives. I think that the insurance industry left to its own devices has behaved shamefully, and we must act on behalf of the American people. We have lived on their playing field all this time. It's time for the insurance companies to exist on the playing field of the American people.

“I believe I have news for some of my colleagues, because we have very much more in common. Senator Coburn, you had so many positive suggestions, which I didn't hear much else of, but from you we did. And I think you'd be pleased to know that after much debate in our house, we came up with value, not volume. Others have called it quality, not quantity in terms of utilization, overutilization. Senator McCain when you talk about fraud — we're talking about addressing regional disparities in terms of compensation and health care.

“So we have addressed many of these new issues in the bill. I think it's really important to note, though, and I want the record to show, because two statements were made here that are not factual in relationship to these bills. My colleague, Leader Boehner, the law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion, and there is no public funding of abortion in these bills and I don't want our listeners or viewers to get the wrong impression from what you said. Mr. Camp, you said that the Medicare cuts in this bill cut benefits for seniors. They do not. They do not. So I want the record to show just in those two cases, we may have differences of opinion and approach and evaluation of the value of different things, but certain things are facts about our bills that I cannot let the opposite view stand when they are stated.

“Yes, it's hard to do this. The misrepresentation campaign that is going on about these bills, it's a wonder anybody would support them, as Mr. Waxman said. But the fact is, as the President said, many of these provisions on their own are largely supported by the American people. So this will take courage to do. Social Security was hard. Medicare was hard. Health care reform for all Americans — insurance reform is hard — but we will get it done.

“And as we leave this debate, I think that many of the differences that we have are complicated and they are legitimate. They are differences of opinion about the role of government and the rest. But I think it's really clear on one point that the American people understand very clearly, they understand that there should be an end to discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions. The proposals we have put forth end discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions, the Republican bill does not.

“With that, Mr. President, I thank you again for the opportunity to discuss the differences and to try to find some common ground on this.”

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