Kathy A Dahlkemper

Health Care - Oct. 13, 2009

Kathy A Dahlkemper
October 13, 2009— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Thank you, Representative Pingree, for allowing me to join you and my other colleagues here tonight as a fellow freshman. This is certainly an historic time for us to be new Members of Congress, as I think we are working on probably the most important piece of legislation that we will probably ever take up within our time here in Congress, something that touches every American, something that touches every one of the constituents in our districts.

I, like so many of you, spent my entire August going out and talking to my constituents. We, as the freshmen, were actually a pretty strong group that slowed down the vote on this bill. So when people say that we are rushing this legislation, I say, no, we actually slowed it down quite significantly. But I think that was great, because it gave us time to read the bill, really understand the bill, and, as Representative Polis said, learn more about health care. We all have learned a lot over these number of months as we have been here together day after day talking about health care.

When I talk about health care reform, when I am out in my district, I talk about the fact that it is really a human story, and we all have our stories. One of the most poignant for me was a gentleman who came up to me, actually as I was on one of my congressional bike-and-hikes, because I like to really talk a lot about wellness and prevention, so I am trying to promote that by promoting the great resources in my region, bike paths and hiking areas. So we do these bike-and-hikes.

He came up to me on his bike and said that health care was his number one issue. I asked him to explain to me, and he told me about the great health care insurance he had with his company. He worked for a very large corporation. But his daughter, when she was 20 and she was in college, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

The treatment for that is very harsh. You end up being put into intensive care, and it really debilitates you as you go through this series of chemotherapy treatments. She had to drop out of college. And guess what happened as soon as she dropped out of college? She was removed from their insurance.

So this is the kind of thing that we see over and over again. That is just one of many, many stories that I have heard, and I know all of you have heard.

Today actually it was announced we are putting a provision in this health care reform where young people through 26 years, up to their 27th birthday, will be able to stay on their parents' health care coverage if they don't have another opportunity, if they don't work for a company that offers coverage. As we know, many young people in those early years, whether they are going to school, when they get out of school, don't get that first job that offers coverage, or can't find a job right now, as we know many of them can't, or maybe have other things that they want to pursue. It allows them to stay on their parents' coverage up to their 27th birthday. I think that is a great piece.

When I was done with the press conference about this, one of the cameramen who had been there told me that was the best thing he had heard in all the years he had been covering the news here at the Capitol, because he has a son who works for a very large corporation, 19 years old, done with school, who did not have health care coverage. He was walking across the street and got hit by a bus, and just the cost that this has been to the family of this young man.

So we are still working on this bill, and I think that is important for the American people to know, that we are continuing to work on this bill, to make it better every day so that when it comes to the House floor and we go to vote on this, we are going to be making such significant changes for this country, significant changes for these young people, who, as we know, 31 percent of them are uninsured, those in their twenties. We are going to be making significant changes for our seniors who are going to have their preventative services, for example, covered with no copay. We are going to be making significant changes for our small businesses, and as a small business owner, I know how important this reform is.

In Pennsylvania, my State, only 51 percent of our small businesses cover their employees with health care coverage, and that is because they can't afford it. As Representative Polis said, it is not because they don't want to do it; it is because they can't afford the increased costs.

So I want to thank you for letting me join you tonight and talk about this very important issue that we are continuing to debate and move forward really for the future of this country. I am just proud to be down here right now and proud to be with all of you serving and making this happen here.


If the gentlelady would yield, I think that wellness and prevention is such a large component of this bill, and that is something I don't think we talk enough about. And really, as we look, people say to me, well, everyone can get health care in this country. They just go to the emergency room. Well, the emergency room is illness care. It's not health care. And what we're trying to do with this bill is actually go back to treating wellness and to treating health, not just treating illness, which is really what so many people in our country have to live with. They just wait until they're so sick they have to show up at the emergency room.

And just on that point, I just wanted to make one other comment about a subject that I don't even hear talked about that much. But the largest hospital in my district told me that they had budgeted $30 million for charity care this year. It's going to be at least 50 million. There is no way that they can sustain this year after year after year. So that's just another piece to this entire issue that we don't talk about that often, but our providers are having trouble, along with our businesses and, certainly, along with individuals.

So we do have a great wellness piece. We've been working on putting more wellness pieces into this bill. Again, we're continuing to work on this. We're looking at grants to go to communities to bring stakeholders together, to bring government and schools and the providers and businesses to work on things such as childhood obesity, which we know is an epidemic in this country.

So there are still a lot of good things being worked on. This bill gets better and better by the day, and I believe we, again, are at a historic point here and we are going to be able to just provide stability and security to this country in terms of our health care. And, to me, we have to continue to sharpen our pencils, as Representative Tonko says, and continue to find ways to save with this bill and also to provide even better care for citizens of all ages.

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