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Pelosi Remarks on Press Call to Mark 10-Year Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act During Coronavirus Crisis

Contact: Speaker’s Press Office,

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Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Senator Bob Casey, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, Former HHS Secretary Sebelius and Protect Our Care on a press call to mark the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act and to highlight what’s at stake for Americans if President Trump and Republicans overturn the law as the nation grapples with the coronavirus.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Leslie, for bringing us together on this call.  I’m honored to join Secretary Sebelius.  We worked together on this long ago.  Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, just such a strong voice in the Congress coming as a health care provider herself and knowledgeable about the policy by her experience in the Obama Administration.  Of course, Senator Bob Casey – I don’t know if he’s joined yet but I thank him for his leadership.  And I know that our VIP on the call is Laura Packard, so thank you Laura for your generosity of spirit to share your story with us.  Again, thank you, Leslie. 

Ten years ago, seems like yesterday, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.  It was a great, historic day.  It was a big deal, to paraphrase Vice President Biden.  It is also important to note that I was very proud of the courage of my Members to take the big vote along the way.

I want to praise – our inside maneuvering would not have been successful without the outside mobilization of many of the groups coordinated by Protect Our Care.  So, thank you for that.  Not only for then, but into protecting the legislation with 10,000 events in the year that they were trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act even further.   

I do want to mention Senator Ted Kennedy.  He has been an inspiration to us for years on the subject and just – I don’t think this would have happened in the way it did without his leadership and I thank him for that.  He always saw this as a moral issue. 

So, again, we took a big, monumental step forward for the health and financial security of the American people.  Now, we have – as you indicated – we expanded health care to 20 million more, delivered better coverage for more than the 150 million Americans with health care insurance through an employer, and as you mentioned very, very importantly, the pre-existing condition benefit the President is undermining. 

So, it – when he – I’m urging him today to remove, to withdraw from the lawsuit in the Supreme Court, just to call more attention to the fact that he wants to remove – he wants to return to lifetime limits on health care.  He wants to remove essential health benefits.  He wants to take young people who are on their parents’ insurance off.  He wants to open up the prescription drug donut hole.  He wants Americans with pre-existing conditions to be discriminated against in terms of health care and cost. 

So, from day one , we’re so proud of Lauren Underwood and our House Democrats.  Democratic Freshmen have been leading the way to defend and enhance the law.  But instead of joining us to strengthen the law, the Trump Administration is in court again to sue to tear it down entirely.  We can’t let that happen.  And day one – when I say day one I mean literally day one – Member of the Freshman class – representing the Freshman class, Colin Allred went to the Floor and said we were asserting the Congressional intention to go to court to fight what they were doing.  

So, again, it’s a happy day in terms of what we did then.  It’s a challenging day in what they have tried, as Leslie mentioned, to dismantle it.  It happens at a time when we need it more in terms of this pandemic.  

So, again, thank God for everyone who made this all possible.  A special thanks to President Obama.  He was just magnificent with his vision, with his attention to detail, with his strategic thinking.  He really – well, it wouldn’t have happened without him.  And it wouldn’t have happened without Harry Reid, so I want to send a kudos to him, as well as all our Committee Chairs. 

But again, let me get back to the outside.  You all – the outside mobilization made a tremendous difference.  We could not have gotten over the obstacles that they put there without everyone, whether it’s nuns on the bus or patient advocacy groups or you name it – or Protect Our Care, that great coalition that you had.  It’s something we’re all very, very grateful for.  

And we have to continue this fight to win in court or help them not go to court, but as we prayerfully, prayerfully go into this discussion – further discussion on the coronavirus challenge, thank God for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

I yield back, and I thank all of you for what you are doing to keep America healthy.  

***

Q:  Thank you, and thank you for holding this call. 

Yesterday, during the taskforce briefing in the evening, President Trump implied – he suggested that Republicans can get started on creating and promoting a new health care package.  I’d like to hear all of your comments on that, amid this coronavirus if that’s even a possibility? 

Leslie Dach.  I’ll see if the Speaker is still on and would like to answer that and – 

Speaker Pelosi.  I’m on.  Yes, the – remember repeal and replace?  They never came up with the replace and they couldn’t get away with the repeal. 

So this is just another notion that the President, the notion-monger that he is, has put out there.  Instead of doing that, he should be withdrawing his support from the case before the Supreme Court.  He should be urging the Medicaid states – the states that have not expanded Medicaid, to do so.  He should exercise the Defense Production Act so that we would have what we need to protect our workers who are caring for people with coronavirus instead of pie in the skying it, baying at the moon about the fact that he thinks he is going to get a health care bill.  Perhaps he didn’t notice that he lost miserably in the 2018 elections, so that’s mythology – a myth. 

But I will say that I’m so proud of everything I heard on this call.  And I thank Madam Secretary and Senator Casey for their kind words.  We were at the scene of our triumphs together, so I want to acknowledge their importance in all of that as well.  

So I just – I don’t – it’s just an irrelevant thing.  Instead of making mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake as the President has in this coronavirus challenge, he should listen to science, listen to evidence and make science-based decisions instead of people having to explain what he really meant later. 

And, again, Mr. President, withdraw from the case and, two, expand Medicaid to keep America and make America healthier. 

***

Q:  Thank you, and thank you for doing this call.  

This question is for Speaker Pelosi.  The ACA plans do have gaps that are showing during this crisis: people still face high deductibles and copays that could land patients with high bills.  Are you considering any additional insurance coverage requirements.  I know insurance companies have said they’re open to a special enrollment period as long as they have government funding to offset any costs they want to incur, but they also just had the health insurance tax repealed.  Could you address some of that?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, ma’am.  Thank you.  Thank you so much for your question. 

Because of the situation that we’re in, we were unable to roll out before the – a week and a half ago, we were going to roll out our Affordable Care Act enhancement and it would address some of the things that you talked about. 

As Madam Secretary and the Senator know, at the time, we were under the Budget Reconciliation Act and we had to pay for everything that we did, and we did.  It was paid for.  However, entering into this enhancement act, again having to pay for it probably, but nonetheless we would increase the amount of money a family can make in order to be eligible for subsidies.  And this would be a big difference because there was like a gap between where we – whatever the percentage was of poverty and the subsidy and where affordability was.  So that’s one very important part of it.

Of course there’s some things that have retired – have just gone out of existence because Republicans put them out of existence or would not renew, for example, reinsurance, very, very central to covering the costs for insurance companies to be able to afford high-risk situations. 

So, it is – again, every piece of legislation is subject, especially one, you know, so many people and at such a cost – and when I say cost, if we want to pay for it, we have to subject everything to the harshest scrutiny to see what works and what doesn’t.  But affordability, affordability.  That’s why it is called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  

Affordability was – we could have had a gimmicky kind of a name, but affordability was the point, because affordability means accessibility to quality care.  

So, I’d like you to see what we are doing with our enhancement act, which goes into many aspects of your question, but affordability being essential.  

***

Q:  Thank you, it’s Suzanne Malveaux.  I don’t know if the Speaker’s still on the call, but just wondering if you could respond to some of the recent tweets that we’ve heard from the President talking about the: ‘We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.  At the end of fifteen day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go,’ suggesting that those who will be impacted or inflicted will be treated, and then encouraging Americans to go about their daily business and go out with the – go on with the economy.  If you could just comment about the approach, the timetable and how you see this.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, I – guess I am off mute – I had to make sure I was off mute.  Thank you for your question. 

Let’s just say what we have always said from the start, is that we need a government-wide, coordinated, evidence and science-based approach to all of this.  None of the above has been in the President’s plan. 

I’ll just tell you this story because yesterday, my granddaughter turned eleven.  And over the weekend – one day, toward the end of last week, she heard me saying, ‘If only the President had not fired the people who were in charge of prevention at the National Security Council… if only the President had faced the reality, and not been in denial about this from the start… if only the CDC had taken the [tests] from WHO, instead of insisting they do their own which were ineffective and prolonged the time…  if only the President were not, again, denying the, even when the numbers were growing, that they were growing,’ – the list goes on and on.  

So, she said to me, ‘Well, you know what?  I’m tired of hearing “If onlys.”  Let’s do something about it.’  I thought that was very wise from a child.  

So, let’s put aside the extremely long list of mistakes the President continues to make.  That statement is not founded on science.  The scientists there – I don’t know what goes on behind that.  

But I do know that it is essentially important that we stop his mistakes and we have strove – striven to have this be non-political, as bipartisan as possible, as unifying as possible, as prayerfully as possible.  But the President will not take responsibility and he’s a notion-monger, just tossing out things that have no relation to a well-coordinated, science-based, government-wide response to this.  

Thank God for the governors who are taking the lead in their states.  Thank God for some of the people in the Administration who speak truth to power.  But really – so that’s what I have to say about some of what he had to say.  

I don’t know specifically about what he did yesterday, because we were writing our bill.  I wasn’t – it got a little bit long for me yesterday, to just hear some more misrepresentations on the part of the President.  

But again, in the Congress, we’re hoping to work in a bipartisan way to have the resources that are necessary, the policy that is needed, the respect for workers – putting workers and families first.  And I just put out a press release about the bill that we’re about to unfold, as to what we see in the House as a values-based approach to this and not saying people should just leave their homes and go work on the basis of what?

So, again, we’re asking the President to undo this case in the Supreme Court.  It relates to both the Affordable Care Act and the virus – we’ve got to ask the states to expand Medicaid where they have not.  We want him to do the [Defense] Production Act, so we have the PPE, the personal protection – protective equipment so that our people can work safely.  They’re so noble to go to work.

And also, I’m hearing that Mitch McConnell is saying that I’m holding up the masks.  No, the masks in the bill that we put – Putting Families First that the President signed last week.  We had two bills.  The first one – the appropriations bill, which put the money for vaccines and research and so many things to help states.  The second bill that did more of the same, but also gave the go ahead for the masks, giving immunity from liability to companies that are making masks.  I didn’t like doing that, but weighing the equities knew we had to get the masks out.  So, that Mitch McConnell would bring up masks is really strange, but not stranger than taking up a vote when you don’t have the votes.

And so – so again, this is this third tranche in all of this, and we want it to be worker oriented, not give away the store to those who might do buybacks, dividends, CEO pay and not honor the responsibilities they have to their workers.   

And with that, I am going to have to excuse myself, because, as Leslie said, we have – I have to get ready for another call and roll out our bill.  It’s called Take Responsibility [for Workers and Families] – it’s sort of like a message to the President – take responsibility putting workers and families first. 

Thank you, Leslie, for the opportunity with such distinguished panelists.  I especially want to thank Protect Our Care for their mobilization outside, which has been acknowledged as essential, and I thank Laura Packard for her lovely, generous sharing of her story and wish her well.  So, thank you all.  Thank you, Kathleen.  Thank you, Lauren.  Thank you, Leslie.  Thank you, Senator Casey.  Thank you, all.  

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