Aug 10, 2021
Kamala Harris Affordable Care Act, Healthcare Speech Transcript August 10
Vice President Kamala Harris gave a speech on healthcare and the Affordable Care Act on August 10, after a visit to a healthcare center in D.C. Read the transcript of her speech remarks here.
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Vincent Keane: (00:00)
Thank you for coming today. Today’s a very special day for Unity. Today’s a special day for community health centers nationwide, because today Madame Vice President Kamala Harris actually is visiting Unity, but at the same time is reflecting on the great work that are done by over 12,000 health centers for 30 million people who are getting access to healthcare. This is the first time we have been honored in our 36 year history of having a Vice President, but more especially, we recognize our Vice President for being number one, the first female, and number two, a person of color. I believe that she has already trailblazed a history that all of us will enjoy. And I think in some way, Vice President Harris embodies the American dream. She is somebody that speaks to all of us about the power and the commitment that she has shown, not just for healthcare, but for so many other issues throughout the United States. We are glad to have her here, we are honored to have her here. And at this time I’d like to introduce Unity’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jessica Boyd. Thank you.
Dr. Jessica Boyd: (01:33)
Good morning. Thank you, Vince. It is a real honor to be here today with Vice President Harris to talk about affordable healthcare and access for all. As a community health center, it is foundational to us to be a high value option for care and to provide high quality comprehensive healthcare services for all, regardless of their ability to pay. And we couldn’t think of an opportunity more than the pandemic that has highlighted the value of community health centers. Many of our patients are frontline workers in grocery stores, construction workers, in the service industry, and they have been in and out of jobs, in and out of work and at the frontline of exposure, and community health centers have been able to provide an opportunity for patients to not only be tested for COVID, but also to receive care if they were exposed to keep their families safe and to help them to navigate the disease.
Dr. Jessica Boyd: (02:25)
Many of our patients in our community are at high risk of healthcare disparities and have chronic conditions, and community health provides primary care and specialty care in a comprehensive way that allows our patients to be at the optimum of their health and really ready for the pandemic if they are to be exposed.
Dr. Jessica Boyd: (02:44)
Third, I think that community health centers have played a critical role as trusted partners, helping people to understand and get information about the COVID vaccine, which is our most important tool in this pandemic and has provided an opportunity for our patients to have access to care regardless of their financial circumstances during the pandemic. I was speaking with one of our patients last night who really went through a transformational journey from substance use and homelessness to being an independent contractor, which meant he didn’t have easy access to care. And the Affordable Care Act provided him with health insurance. And for the last eight years he’s been able to have continuous health insurance that he wouldn’t otherwise, which has provided him with a connecting relationship with a provider and a dentist to provide comprehensive services and really help him on his growth journey and to have consistent care. And I’m just so pleased and proud that it was a Unity provider who is able to help him on this journey.
Dr. Jessica Boyd: (03:40)
So it is my honor to present and to introduce another patient who has had an experience with Affordable Care Act for her and her family. And she will provide some remarks now, Ms. Laura Hatcher
Laura LeBrun Hatcher: (03:51)
Speaker 4: (03:59)
Laura LeBrun Hatcher: (04:02)
I am so pleased to be here with you today. My name is Laura LeBrun Hatcher, and with my husband, Brian, I run a small design firm just outside of Baltimore, where we’re also raising two amazing kids. My daughter, Olivia is here with me today. She’s about to start pre-med at Johns Hopkins University in just two weeks. My son Simon is at a doctor’s appointment with his father right now. Simon is 15 and he has the best laugh you’ve ever heard. He also has hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, vision and hearing loss, a unique genetic disorder, physical and cognitive disabilities. You could say he has a few pre-existing conditions. In fact, everyone in my family has preexisting conditions, from my husband’s high blood pressure to my asthma, Olivia doesn’t even have a spleen, which is another long story. My family needs health care, and we need the protections of the Affordable Care Act to ensure that we can access that healthcare. Simon recently became eligible for a Medicaid waiver thanks to the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, having home and community-based services through Medicaid has been life changing for him.
Laura LeBrun Hatcher: (05:17)
As small business owners, the only way that Brian, Olivia and I can access health insurance is through the ACA’s exchanges. Every year during open enrollment, we choose the plan that works best for our family. Thanks to the ACA’s guaranteed essential health benefits all of the plans are good quality. However, I can’t say they’ve always been affordable. As a middle-class business owner, my family didn’t qualify for any subsidies. Every month I would put our insurance payment of about $700 on my credit card. Most months I could pay it off, but sometimes, especially during the pandemic when our business came to a standstill, I couldn’t. Those months we would accrue debt with interest, and I would accrue just a little bit more anxiety.
Laura LeBrun Hatcher: (06:04)
When Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, I knew that it included funding for Medicaid and the ACA, and I was thrilled to hear that they opened a special enrollment period to help more families like mine access the healthcare that they needed during a pandemic. I also hoped the ARP might help my family a little bit too. Well, it helped a lot. My health insurance now costs $600 less a month. That’s $7,200 that I don’t have to put on my credit card this year. That is affordable insurance. That is access to the healthcare that my family needs. That is peace of mind. I hope that the subsidies become permanent, especially as I’m putting a kid through college. I also hope that in our country, access to healthcare becomes the right that I believe that it is.
Laura LeBrun Hatcher: (06:58)
It is now my honor to introduce someone who also believes that healthcare is a right. As Attorney General in California, she defended the Affordable Care Act against partisan lawsuits. As Senator, she championed kids like my Simon and everyone else who needed healthcare by voting to protect the ACA over and over again. And now I sleep better at night knowing that as our Vice President, Kamala Harris is leading the way to not just defend the health care that we have, but to improve it. Thank you.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (07:41)
Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Laura, thank you for that. And where’s Olivia? Congratulations.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (07:49)
Congratulations. How about that? And give your brother Simon my best, okay? Thank him for his courage. So thank you all. It’s so wonderful to be here, and thank you for telling your story and sharing your story. I know it takes a lot out of you, but your story is sadly a common story, which is how families struggle, but also the strength that families show in the midst of that struggle that inspires so many others. So thank you for your inspiration. Vincent Keane, Dr. Jessica Henderson Boyd, thank you for all that you do and thank you for welcoming us this morning. And on this National Health Center Week, let me thank all of the healthcare workers, the technicians, the administrators, the custodians, nurses, and doctors who keep our community health centers running and keep our community health centers as part of the fabric and the trusted centers of leadership in our communities.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (08:57)
It’s so good to be here, and it’s wonderful to be with you because there is so much to talk about that is based on the work that you all do every day. And we’re talking about healthcare, an issue that is as personal as it is important. President Joe Biden and I believe that healthcare for that reason must be a right, not a privilege, a right, to which all people are entitled. We also believe that health care in the form of health insurance must be affordable for all Americans. Affordable health insurance gives people the opportunity to determine their own future. And I believe strongly in this concept of self-determination, the importance of allowing the ability to have control of their own lives, to make the decisions that are relevant to themselves and their families.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (09:57)
And on this issue of affordable health insurance, this is one of those points. When people have affordable health insurance, they have the opportunity to make decisions about their life, they have options. But without affordable health insurance, those options are limited and life can then be daunting. Let’s think about the parent sitting in a hospital parking lot with their sick child, terrified as she or he is sitting in the car, the child is in the back seat, they’re in the parking lot looking at those sliding glass doors of the emergency room, pausing because they know if they walk into those sliding glass doors and walk into that emergency room without health insurance, they may be out as much as $4,000. So they’re there with a sick child having to make a decision about literally whether they can afford to keep their home or be homeless or get their child the medical help that child needs. That’s just not right, that’s just not right and nobody should have to go through that.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (11:18)
And that is why the Affordable Care Act is so important. More than 30 million people have health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, they called it Obamacare also, 30 million people. More people today are covered through the Affordable Care Act than ever before, and President Joe Biden and I, are purposely and intentionally building on its success to further bring down healthcare costs. In February, we made the decision to open a special enrollment period through healthcare.gov, you know I came with a website. Healthcare.gov, so that all Americans would have the opportunity to sign up for health coverage. And today I am proud to announce that because of that more than two and a half million people since then have signed up for health coverage, two and a half million people. That is two and a half million people who can rest easier knowing that they can go to the doctor without taking on debt, or heaven forbid, if there is a sudden accident or illness that they can get the care they need.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (12:40)
And I don’t need to tell anybody here, this is especially important now while we are in the middle of a major public health crisis. A lot of people put off going to the doctor this past year because of the pandemic, people missed their regular appointments, be it for a mammogram or just checkups in terms of their progress, in terms of cancer. Some had to ignore the symptoms and the signs and the pain that they were experiencing because of that and people without health insurance could continue to suffer. And then that is why we are encouraging everyone to sign up. On Sunday, August 15th, the special enrollment period will end. On Sunday, August 15th, the special enrollment period will end, that’s six days from today. So if you need health insurance, please visit healthcare care. Do not wait, sign up today.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (13:53)
And now we know that when people have the opportunity to sign up, they do. And that is why we’re here today, and why we have to continue to get the word out over these next six days. The demand is there, by the way. The demand is there. We saw that when we extended the open enrollment period and two and a half million people signed up. So this is the thing that we do know, people want affordable health coverage, but we just have to make it accessible, and we have to let them know what’s available. So through our American Rescue Plan, we have lowered healthcare costs with new tax cuts and healthcare.gov consumers have seen their premiums dropped by an average of 40%. For folks returning to the exchange, that is an average savings of $40 a month. For a family of four, that is almost $2,000 a year, and that financial freedom can make all the difference.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (14:52)
America, the President and I are just getting started. This week, the Senate will begin to vote on our administration’s Build Back Better agenda, and a big part of that agenda is lowering healthcare costs. The tax cuts that I just mentioned are giving our nation’s families much needed relief. Our administration is pushing Congress to extend those cuts to keep premiums low. If we are able together to do that, four million additional people will get covered, four million additional people, and the nine million people currently saving money will keep saving money. But if we do not extend these tax cuts, people will lose out and they will probably lose their coverage, so we have to get this done.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (15:46)
We also must work together to call on Congress to advance other components of our Build Back agenda, to expand Medicaid in every state, to expand Medicaid in every state. People live in every state, that’s the logic. To include dental, vision, and hearing services with Medicare coverage. I don’t have to tell you how much and how expensive that is, especially for our seniors. And it’s all about their ability, again, back to that point about self-determination, to be able to be independent, to be able to enjoy life, but with hearing aids costing thousands of dollars, being shut out of what they are entitled to have in terms of a quality of life. And to change the law then, which is what we need to do, so that we can finally negotiate lower prescription drug prices for seniors and families. These are the things we are urging Congress to do, and I don’t need to tell you it’s long overdue. So I do believe we can get this done, I know we can get this done. And this brings me back to you, to the importance of our community health centers.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (17:15)
Community health centers are a Testament to our ability to accomplish big things and build on those accomplishments. Community health centers began in the 1960s as part of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s war on poverty. Sadly, that war on poverty was short lived, but there were some important components which lasted, including community health centers. And then decades later, President George W. Bush built on President Johnson’s vision pushing for a major expansion of the community health center program. And then fast forward to President Obama and then Vice President Joe Biden, who increased the funding for community health centers during their administration. And now our administration has provided $6 billion to community health centers.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (18:10)
And I’ll tell you why, you provide a critical service. You keep our families healthy. You provide a place where people know they will be treated with dignity and with respect, which all human beings deserve. They know they will walk in these doors and be in a safe place without judgment, where they can be, especially for any of us when we’re talking about healthcare, can be vulnerable and at the same time be treated in a way that helps alleviate pain and extend life. This is the work you all do every day. It is an incredible gift that you have and give. And I know it takes great sacrifice to do this work, and especially over this last year and a half.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (19:12)
So on behalf of the President and me, we thank you on behalf of our country and all our communities for the work you do. And let us remember that as we work to lower healthcare costs, it is also the work of saying, I see you, I hear you, we are all in this together and in that way, we will be stronger as a community. When we touch and have impact on all communities, our society benefits and our country benefits. So thank you all for the work you do, please to everybody let’s pass out and pass on the information, sign up for coverage at healthcare.gov by August 15th. And with that, again, I say, thank you, may God bless you and may God bless America. Thank you all very much.