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“The House of Representatives deserves the appreciation of our entire nation for what it did last night. A clear majority of Congressmen and Congresswomen voted in favor of a bill that a supermajority of Senators passed a few months ago. Tomorrow the Senate will begin to put the final touches on this enormous effort.
“Last night’s votes took both courage and common sense. Their votes were momentous. They were historic. And they were right.
“After a century of working and waiting, real reform will become the law of the land not in a matter of years or months or weeks–but in matter of mere hours. And in the very near future, the earliest parts of this bill will take effect and improve the lives of millions.
“In the very near future, insurance companies will no longer be able to refuse to cover children’s pre-existing conditions. They will no longer be able to drop your coverage just because you get sick.
“Small businesses that today can’t afford to cover their employees will soon get tax credits that will help them right that wrong. Tens of thousands of small businesses will benefit in Nevada alone.
“Reform means that if you have a pre-existing condition and no health insurance, you will soon be able to finally afford the care you need to get and stay healthy.
“If you’re one of the many senior citizens stuck in the prescription-drug ‘donut hole,’ you will soon get a check to help pay for your medicine. That will help seniors stay healthy while we completely close that loophole, once and for all, for nearly 60,000 Nevada seniors and many more across the country.
“Also starting this year, no insurance company will be able to impose a lifetime limit on your benefits.
“Those changes are just the tip of the iceberg. They are only some of the benefits that will kick in almost immediately, and just a fraction of what this bill will do over the long run for the health of our nation, our economy and, most importantly, our citizens.
“When all is said and done, more than 600,000 Nevadans will be able to access affordable coverage.
“More than 300,000 Nevadans will get tax credits to help them buy health coverage from the private market.
“Another 300,000 seniors in my state will get free preventative annual services like physicals and check-ups.
“Nevadans who buy insurance on their own will also save money. Because of this bill, their premiums will go down by as much as 20 percent–which means Nevada families can save as much as $2,000 a year.
“And this bill will save our country money, too. Over the next 10 years, it will slash our deficit by $143 billion.
“The House did the right thing last night. Now it is our turn to finish the job.
“Many Senators deserve credit for getting us this far, and many will help us cross the finish line this week. I thank especially:
· Chairman Baucus, who oversaw the financial components of this bill that will bring down health care costs and vastly reduce our deficit.
· Chairman Dodd, who oversaw the parts of reform that will ensure more Americans than ever before can afford to stay healthy. Our friend Ted Kennedy is surely proud.
· Chairman Harkin, who has led the HELP Committee down the homestretch and deserves the thanks of millions of students and their families for making college more affordable.
· And Chairman Conrad, who as the head of the Budget Committee will continue to guide us through the budget reconciliation bill–a fiscally responsible final piece that will further reduce the deficit, ensure more Americans can afford health insurance and fully close the ‘donut hole.’
“I know the other side watched the House vote last night, as we did. I hope they finally learned that a strategy of delay, myths and fear might slow progress, but it cannot stop it.
“I hope that this week, when we take up the final revisions to what will soon be long overdue law, our Republicans friends will finally act in the interests of their constituents, and not just the interests of the insurance industry or of their political party.
“The other side has made it clear they will try to stop progress based on technicalities. But what this budget process is all about is simply making a good law even better.
“The other side is still talking about the number of pages in the bill. But we won’t stop thinking about the number of lives it will save.”
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