Pelosi: 'We Passed Health Reform to Improve Medicare and Ensure Seniors Can Count on It Now and for Generations'

May 26, 2010
Press Release

Contact: Brendan Daly/Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Barbara Kennelly of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Dr. Ben Williamowsky of Silver Spring, Md., a Medicare recipient, held a news conference today to discuss benefits of and misconceptions about the Affordable Care Act and Medicare.

The participants highlighted a four-page brochure, "Medicare and the New Health Care Law, What it Means for You," which was mailed by HHS this week to seniors. It outlines the benefits for Medicare recipients in the new health insurance reform law.

Below are Speaker Pelosi’s opening remarks and selected quotes from each of the other participants:

Speaker Pelosi Opening Remarks:

"Good afternoon. I know you are out there. [Laughter.] Good afternoon.

"And a good afternoon it is when we have the Secretary of Health and Human Services with us at the Capitol—Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a champion in promoting health care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege. I am here with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. A special guest for all of us, Dr. Ben Williamowsky, a retired dentist and local senior. Steny will introduce him, but I want to say that my father gave him his diploma from dental school in 1948. Where is he? There. We go way back. [Laughter.]

"Four decades ago, Congress created Medicare, a bedrock promise to our seniors. This year, we passed health care reform to improve Medicare, to protect seniors and people with disabilities, and to ensure that seniors can count on Medicare now and for generations to come.

"We are here to draw attention to a critical piece of mail our seniors will get this week. This four-page brochure outlines the new benefits in health reform for Medicare recipients. There it is.

"Perhaps most significantly it begins with what stays the same for Medicare. No change in guaranteed benefits and no change in eligibility. During open enrollment this fall, seniors will continue to have a choice between original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Medicare will continue to cover health cost the way it always has for seniors. Barbara Kennelly is here, our former colleague, to attest to that.

"Members of Congress will head home to their districts this weekend for Memorial Day. One of our top jobs is to clear up confusion and correct misinformation around health reform. This brochure for seniors is a good place to start.

"We also have to make clear that Congressional Republicans calling for repeal also oppose those benefits and would return us to a system of higher drug cost, shrinking benefits, and insecurity for our seniors. In fact, they have a budget—that’s the nature of their budget—that ends Medicare as we know it and turns Social Security over to the whims of Wall Street.

"Republicans in Congress chose the side of the insurance industry and its profits, over the care of what seniors need and deserve. Democrats have been on the side of America’s seniors — securing Medicare for the long-term, ensuring accountability for the insurance industry — accountability for the insurance industry — and giving seniors, families, and doctors greater control over their care.

"It is now my honor, as I mentioned earlier, to introduce a great woman who is with us today. And I mention that my father gave Dr. Williamowsky his diploma in 1948. I want to mention that Barbara Kennelly, former Congresswoman, now the head of the Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Kathleen Sebelius and I are all graduates of Trinity College in Washington, D.C. — a women’s college in Washington, D.C. And we all had fathers in politics — the governor of Ohio, the mayor of Baltimore, and Mr. Bailey, the king of the Democratic Party in Connecticut and nationally, as a matter of fact. We had fathers who encouraged their daughters. I hope that there is a message here.

"Again, now, it’s my honor to yield the floor to the distinguished Secretary of Health and Human Services. As governor — as insurance commissioner in her home state of Kansas, as governor of the state — she knows the ramifications and the implications of legislative language very well. As a person with a vision for health care for all Americans, she is an inspiration to all of us and a major reason why we were able to pass that important legislation. Welcome, Secretary Sebelius."


Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:

"There has been a lot of misinformation promoted about what the Affordable Care Act will and won’t do, particularly as it regards seniors and their benefits. Unfortunately, some of that has distracted from: What are the real benefits available in the new law to seniors?"

"The Affordable Care Act will finally close the prescription drug donut hole, an issue that has been a hot topic for seniors and disabled Americans. It starts this year with seniors receiving $250 checks and will gradually, over the course of the program, close the donut hole for the 8 million seniors who end up in that category right now where they are paying 100 percent out of pocket for critical prescription drugs..."

"We want to inform America’s seniors what the act actually contains, what benefits they have coming their way, how to take advantage of those benefits, and what sort of priorities they will be. And this is the beginning of what will continue to be an aggressive outreach campaign."

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer:

"Older Americans faced an enormous amount of misinformation over the course of the health care debate. It was conscious, it was intended to misinform, and it was intended for political reasons, not for policy reasons."

"But now that the health insurance reform is law, the world hasn’t ended, older Americans are learning about all the benefits and policies that are working to strengthen Medicare and their peace of mind."

Dr. Ben Williamowsky:

"I am here because I support the Affordable Care Act, and I believe it is important for seniors like myself to understand how the legislation will improve Medicare in the future."

"There are a lot of reasons why I believe the Affordable Care Act will be good for Medicare. And I also believe it will be good for my family, and that’s a thought I would like to leave you today. People ask me, people my friends who are one of the anti-groups, who will say: ‘What is it going to do for you? Why are you so much in favor of this bill?’ I said: ‘Well, I will tell you two very important things it is going to do for me. Number one, it is going to allow me to live out my life.

…And the other reason I give them is this, we have a granddaughter—Minna and I, Minna is in the audience—who at the age of three had a malignant brain tumor. She was operated on. She has gone through treatments all of her life. She is now 25 and functioning fairly well, but still under the care and treatment from time to time. She is 25 years old. She has been taken care of on her parents’ health insurance. Now without this bill, what was going to happen when she was 26? When they could not find a job for her that has health benefits to pay that? When she could not have it any longer under her parents’ insurance? She would be cut off without insurance at the age of 26 and be faced with a terrible, terrible dilemma and challenges to her going on in her life. Now I can say that she can, with this bill, that she can get health insurance and it will not be dependent on any pre-existing conditions"

Barbara Kennelly:

"So now as President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I watched this bill develop — I read about this bill, I studied this bill. Our members — we have 4 million members and supporters. And I went around the country telling my members and mailing to my members that this is a good idea."

"Doing nothing was not an option. Because you know why? Because we could not afford Medicare. The government couldn’t afford it and the people on Medicare couldn’t afford it."

"Once I tell my members what’s in this bill. Once I explain to them about this bill — they are for it. And therefore I urge all former friends of mine in the Congress: Get out there and sell this bill. Because if we don’t have this bill, Medicare will be broke down the line."