WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The bill passed the House 290-135 and is now headed to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law later today. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Atul Gawande, a surgeon and writer on healthcare policy, recently described our medical system like this: ‘American health care is an appallingly patched-together ship, with…fifteen per cent of the passengers thrown over the rails just to keep it afloat.’
“If you can afford healthcare in America, there is no better place in the world to be sick: You’ll be treated at the best hospitals, by the most skilled doctors, with the latest technology. But if you’re one of the Americans thrown overboard—if you’re one of the 45 million uninsured Americans, for whom even a checkup is a luxury—you might be better off in many other places in the industrialized world. Every other developed nation has figured out how to cover all of its citizens—every one but ours.
“We’re here today to start fixing that. We’re here today to patch the holes in this leaking ship, to make it into a vessel capable of carrying every American.
“We can’t patch every hole today; but if I could pick just one leak to stop, it would be in the hold where we keep our sick children. If you asked me for the most efficient use of a single healthcare dollar, I would put it toward covering more children.
“I don’t say that out of misplaced sentimentality. I say it because it’s well-established that childhood is the most medically pivotal time of life. A child who lives through the first years without a doctor’s care, without regular checkups, without immunizations and booster shots, is in for a lifetime of health danger. That child will live sicker and die sooner. In adulthood, he or she will be a less productive worker. And in old age, he or she will help swell the costs of our entitlement programs.
“That is the logic behind the final passage of this bill, which brings into the State Children’s Health Insurance Program 4 million children who are eligible but not yet enrolled.
“It does what President Bush promised to do when he ran for re-election in 2004. Accepting the Republican nomination, he said, ‘In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for government health insurance programs.’ President Bush failed to deliver on his promise, but today, we will redeem that commitment.
“Today, the objective of years of work will be substantially advanced. With this vote, and with President Obama’s immediate signature, this bill will at long last be law.
“Backed by an overwhelming majority of Americans, we can pass this bill and help raise a healthier generation of Americans. And in this recession, we can lend some vital assistance to the millions of family budgets that are stretched to the breaking point.
“Mr. Speaker, renewing American healthcare—bringing the best care in the world to all of our people—is a hugely complex job. That work does not end today. But this important inclusion of more than 4 million of our children in the guarantee of access to healthcare is a victory for America’s values and its healthier future.”