June 15, 2019
San Francisco – Marking the Health Care for All Americans Weekend of Action, Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Congressman Mike Thompson for a press conference, spotlighting House Democrats’ efforts to protect people with pre-existing conditions and to lower health costs and prescription drug prices for all Americans. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you Morgan, thank you Cheyanne for both of you speaking so eloquently the need for the public to recognize the value the benefit of pre-existing conditions not being a barrier to access and, again, the mission that we are on to lower the cost of prescription drugs so that they are accessible to all Americans. Thank you, Dr. Eisen for your leadership, your welcome, your hospitality but for your leadership here at HealthRIGHT 360 providing care to California.
We were reminiscing about the opening of this facility and how it brought so many people together, multi-generational, multi-ethnically, multi-economic with homeless and the rest. Your work is God’s blessing, really, respecting the dignity and worth of every person. Just see the signs on the wall – the respect you have for the people who come here is really the spirit of San Francisco. Thank you, Dr. Eisen.
We begin, after the welcome of Dr. Eisen, we begin our program this morning with our VIPs. The eloquence of the stories of those affected in our community.
In the course of the last few years, the way we were able to first of all pass the Affordable Care Act over ten years – like ten years ago – but also, the ability to save it from the assault and sabotage that have been exacted upon it, really depended on the eloquence of personal stories.
Thousands of people came forward around the country to tell personal stories. Outside mobilization to magnify and amplify the inside mobilization that we were doing. But without the outside mobilization it would not be possible.
So, I thank you for giving us this opportunity to be part of a drumbeat across America – over 140 Democratic House Members this weekend are having events in their communities or online events, teleconferencing events, to listen to constituents and also to talk about how we go forward – how we have a plan to again preserve the Affordable Care Act, preserve the pre-existing medical condition as a right and also to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
The story that Morgan and Cheyanne told was just stunning in terms of what it meant. And, God has blessed them – they had other resources and, still, they are 26 – 26 years old or younger, but they will face that challenge.
But, so many people in our country do not have that personal support system.
And, again, this is a right for all, not a privilege for the few.
So, Cheyanne and Morgan Faulkner, Lottie Titus, Marisa Atsatt, Andrew Blackshear are our VIPs today.
In the course of the morning, you’ll also be hearing from our Members of Congress in the region – the person I am proud to be co-representative of San Francisco with, Congresswoman Jackie Speier – a champion on many aspects with health care, especially women’s health, including women’s health issues and taking down the cost of prescription drugs.
And, a Member of the Ways and Means Committee – jurisdiction in all of this – Congressman Mike Thompson, here with his wife Jan who is a health care professional. Jan, where is she? Where is she? Jan, where is she?
Well, anyway, she’s here today.
In any event, I want thank each and every one of you for being here with us. Again, you are part of something that is a drumbeat across America.
As we speak, there are other events going on and that will just be the beginning of continuing this because we are passing legislation addressing the issues that we are talking about.
But, in the Senate they are calling it dead on arrival. And we are saying no – alive and well in the public. Give us a vote. Do your job and give us a vote.
And with that, I am very pleased to present to you a constituent of mine, one of my bosses actually – Lottie Titus.
I’ve been to her home, she says now five years ago – it seems like yesterday. She’s active in the community. She has a story to tell about access and cost in terms of health care, and we’re very honored that she’s here with us – Lottie Titus.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you Marissa. Thank you very much Lottie, thank you Andrew, thank you Morgan, thank you all. I want to acknowledge in the audience some guests we have, Liam Cronin, who is here with his mother, Patty Ryan and his father Pat Cronin, thank you for coming and bringing your beautiful son here today.
Thank you for the conversation we are having about juvenile diabetes – diabetes in any form – because your voices are the strongest ones. The most eloquent ones. Whether it was the Little Lobbyists, children with pre-existing conditions, or would acquire what would be considered a pre-existing condition being deprived of health care because of the pre-exisitng condition and the lifetime limit. I want to mention the lifetime limits because we removed them in the Affordable Care Act, very essential as well, and the impact of diminishing Medicaid also had an affect on the children.
So, here we are. Let’s think about health care writ large. Let’s talk about our investment in National Institutes of Health which are greatly increased in the bill that we stayed up all night because they insisted we vote on every amendment.
This is the biblical power to cure, the biblical power to cure and we want that power to cure to be available to everyone, services for everyone and we need more funding for Alzheimer’s for sure. What it means whether we are talking about diabetes, whether we are talking about cancer, or we are talking about Alzheimer’s or any diagnosis, we are talking about productivity in our country. If you just want to take it from a pragmatic standpoint, how we are depriving the country by depriving people of reaching their full potential, we deprive the country of their productivity.
So this a matter of life and death. It is truly is. Our special guests demonstrated the difference between, say, a junk plan which is just money for the insurance companies. If you get sick, too bad, we are going to investigate if you’ve ever smoked in your life and didn’t remember that as a pre-existing condition.
I am so proud of the guests who are here and those who are part of the patient advocacy groups which are so essential to saving the Affordable Care Act and improving it. We know it needs to be improved so that we remove all doubt that it will be there for people. And that this is happening all over the country this weekend. 140 House Democrats having events and, as I say, that is just the start of the drumroll we will have across the country on this issue.
In the spirit of San Francisco, we would not think of leaving people out of the loop of access to benefits, we respect the dignity and worth of every person. All of you work so hard on this. I just want to hold up the HealthRight360, providing care to California – is this a brochure? Is this a magazine? A case statement. Thank you.
But all of you have stories to tell. My daughter, Christine, is Chair of the Women’s Caucus of the California Democratic Party where they advocate for women’s reproductive rights as well as women’s veterans and the rest. So many people so active. We want to vote. All we are saying to Mitch McConnell is give us a vote. Do your job. Right, Jackie and Mike? Do your job. Give us a vote. The American people know what this means. I’ve said to my Republican colleagues, ‘Do yourself a favor, don’t stand in between a parent and a child who has health needs, whether it is a child with disabilities or a child with a diagnosis or whatever it is. You are going to be getting in the way of the most determined, the most determined people in our country.’ You see that in hearing what Lottie had to say, what Marissa had to say as well as your Nana. Your Nana looking after you and I’m sure Andrew’s parents as well but also Liam’s beautiful parents who are here and other parents here today.
I thank you all for coming. I thank the doctor again, Dr. Eisen, for her tremendous leadership. Health care is a right, not a privilege, we all agree and she does so by respecting the dignity and worth of every person. And all of you, thank you for being here today. Thank you so much.
I will take some questions from the press on this subject because that is why we are here. Yes, ma’am?
Q: Madam Speaker, we know this issue drove voter turnout in the 2018 election. Trump kicks off his campaign next Tuesday in Florida, how important is this going to be and are you worried that the discussion about Medicare for All among Democrats is going to hand the President an opportunity to dismiss Democrats as Socialists on this subject?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say that we have everything on the table, we put everyone’s suggestions on the table and we see how that works for the patients, for the consumer, for the American people. What does it mean in terms of the quality of the care they would receive, the kind of access they would have and the costs on them? We are agnostic. Put it all on the table and weigh its merit. The reason that health care was such a big issue on the campaign, it didn’t just happen, it is because it is the concern American working families have, it is about health but also about the financial health because of the assault that a diagnosis makes on the fiscal, financial well-being of a family is a tremendous one. I really attribute the preeminence of the issue in the campaign to the outside mobilization, the 10,000 events that happened around the country.
With all the respect in the world, we try to be respectful of peoples’ views and the rest, but they said in that campaign, the pre-existing condition is a benefit and came back and voted on the Floor, once again, against it. They said they were for the pre-existing benefit because they knew it was important to the health and financial health of America’s families and engaged in a court case that is now going to the Supreme Court on eliminating the Affordable Care Act, including the benefit of pre-existing conditions.
So, there is a difference and we have to say to the American people, we are divided in this way: you either believe in a public role or you don’t. They don’t believe in a public role for health care. They even compared Medicare to a Socialist dictatorship when it came forth. So, if you don’t believe in a public role, you don’t believe in any of this. So they are advocating for junk plans which is lining the pockets of the insurance companies with their high deductibles. So, if you’re young, you think you are invincible. Mary gave me this invincible bracelet yesterday at her women’s conference. If you are young, you think I am never going to be sick, I am just going to pay this money, have a high deductible, and then you get sick or have an accident. One diagnosis, one accident and you are in very big trouble. In the meantime, the insurance companies are raking in the dough.
What we are talking about is preserving pre-existing conditions and the removal of the lifetime limits, pre-existing condition benefit, lower prescription drug prices, and get rid of junk plans, just to name three of the provisions. Now, we are working on further legislation which would further reduce the cost of prescription drugs and we hope that it would be bipartisan and that we would hope the President would sign the legislation.
In the campaign, since you mentioned it, For The People. For The People: lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and preserving the pre-existing condition benefit, bigger paychecks. Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green way – jobs for the 21st Century – lower health care, bigger paychecks, cleaner government.
You think the President would be interested in the first two, lowering health care costs and prescription drug prices, building infrastructure – I am not sure he is interested in cleaner government. Do my colleagues want to speak on these issues?
Congressman Mike Thompson. I’ll just add quickly to that, I think it is pretty clear, when this President ran for President the first job he said we were going to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. As you know, since the day it was signed into law, they’ve tried to repeal it. This President tried – there’s no replacement. He said we are going to try have a bigger plan, a better plan, a beautiful plan. Nothing! They have offered absolutely nothing except a lawsuit that will repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away protections for pre-existing conditions.
Speaker Pelosi. That’s why HR 1, our cleaner government initiative is so important because it reduces the role of big, dark special interest money in politics and that’s why we think it will be a path for us to have the people’s interests be at stake in public policy, not the special interest and that applies to gun safety legislation which is a public health issue.
Congressman Mike Thompson. The Speaker’s point —
Speaker Pelosi. Mike Thompson has been our hero, he’s the Chair of our Task Force in the Congress on gun violence.
Congressman Mike Thompson. On the Speaker’s point on putting everything on the table, that’s what I alluded to earlier. On the Ways and Means Committee, we had a hearing on it last week, access to health care. How do we get everyone covered? How does everybody have access to quality, affordable health care. Not necessarily this plan, that plan, your plan, my plan. Access to coverage for everybody.
Congresswoman Speier. The American people have no tolerance for hypocrisy and all we hear from our Republican colleagues is hypocrisy. The President says, as Mike mentioned, a big, beautiful plan and what’s the first thing he does when he becomes President? He sues, he has his Attorney General sue to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Sixty-five times we have had to vote in the House for the repeal, vote against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. There is a huge divide in this country and it is our job to make it crystal clear that we are there to protect health care for every American under every condition.
Speaker Pelosi. Try to understand this, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. When somebody challenges it in court, it is the responsibility of the Justice Department to uphold the law of the land. Instead, this Justice Department has said, ‘We are going to join in overturning the law of the land.’ Highly unusual but consistent with an anti-governance which applies to public health, clean air, clean water, you have to have a public role – but all they do every day is degrade that aspect of public health as well because they don’t like any governance.
Q: Can I just ask again, what is the total number of people with pre-existing conditions. I know you said 17 million kids but –
Speaker Pelosi. When we were doing the Affordable Care Act much was said about that we were going to be expanding to 20 million more people that did not have access to health care and that was a very important number. But in addition to that, there were nearly 150 million, Jackie said 130 million, but at least 130 million families who had a member with pre-existing conditions.
While the 20 million was something we were very proud of, the 130 million were people who didn’t have a pre-existing benefit and now they do and not have lifetime limits. Had lifetime limits and now they don’t. That was one of the beauties of the bill that was not as publicized as I would have liked.
And then in addition to that, more people than that even who had health care, who already had access to health care but were subjected to pre-existing lifetime limits but also other benefits they received in terms of prescription drugs, in terms of their children being on their policies until they are 26 years old, being a woman no longer being a pre-existing condition.
The list goes on and on. Even more than the 130 million. That is a large number of people affected, at least one person in your family has a pre-existing condition.
Congressman Mike Thompson. Everyone my age or older.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, being a woman! I remember, I had five children and then I had a bad back and I was calling the insurance company and they said, ‘Well, we think having five children is a –’ They didn’t call it a pre-existing, they said it eliminates you from getting coverage and I said, ‘I thought having five children was a sign of strength.’
Any other questions from the press on health issues?
Q: Speaker, what are your thoughts on the chances of your prescription drug price plan –
Speaker Pelosi. We have certain criteria we want to have as we go forward on the drug issue. Because this is central. When you heard Morgan and Cheyanne talk about the cost of prescription drugs, you heard Lottie as well, and Jackie, excuse me, Madam Chair Speier talk about that. We have a situation where people have a pre-existing condition, we want them to have the care they need, but the cost of the drugs for diabetes are so high, so high that it is very sad. Jackie, did you want to tell them the figure you told me about local, domestic costs?
Congresswoman Speier. The United States has 15 percent of the diabetic population in the world but is responsible for 50 percent of the revenue to the pharmaceutical companies for insulin.
Speaker Pelosi. So, these companies have these high costs that you are at the mercy of because it is life-sustaining and so people are skipping and this and that. We can’t have that in our country. So our standards are we want the Secretary to be able to negotiate for lower prices, when that happens and we achieve lower prices, we do not for Medicare, we will prohibit the companies from going on the non-Medicare patients to make up the money they just lost on the Medicare side of things.
Again, very carefully crafting it so that we can get probably a quarter of a trillion dollars, 250 billon dollars worth of money to feed back into Medicare if we insist, there are about 250 drugs that are very high in cost. We want them to address as many as possible as quickly as possible. And then, also, to not have them engage in activities that prevent other drugs from rising – Mike knows more about this because it is his Committee. In any event, negotiate, make sure the public sector is protected from any assault they may make on the private side, to make up for what they would lose on the Medicare side, and let’s get that money, return it to the Medicare system, bring down the cost of drugs for our seniors and many other people in our country as well.
We think we are in a good place. We have a lot of exuberance in our own Caucus about one way or another, working through that. We feel optimistic that we may have the President be in agreement on it if it has high visibility, then the public knows and this approach may be one. We have some indication that – the President says he wants to bring down the cost of prescription drugs so we have to operate on that premise and hopefully that will be the case.
Any other questions? Thank you all for coming today and being a part of the drumbeat across America!