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Pelosi Announces Key Provision in Health Insurance Reform for Young Adults

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, and Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper joined a coalition of 20 youth organizations from 30 states for a press conference this afternoon in the Capitol to announce a key provision impacting young adults in health insurance reform legislation. The provision allows young Americans to remain on the their parents' insurance through the age of 26. Also speaking at the conference were: Ari Matusiak from the Young Invincibles, Erica Williams from Campus Progress, and Krisja Hendricks. Below are the Speaker's opening statement, closing remarks, and a question and answer session.

Speaker Pelosi Opening Remarks:

"Good afternoon, and a good afternoon it is when we are here standing before the future - the young people of our country. I am pleased to be here with Chris Van Hollen, and thank him for his leadership in this Congress. And the person of the hour, Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper, who introduced the Young Adult Health Coverage Act of 2009. We are going to have an important announcement about that, which ensures that every American under the age of 30 has affordable health insurance.

"It is great to stand here with Ari Matusiak of Young Invincibles -- you have heard that expression before -- Young Invincibles, an organization formed to get young adults behind the campaign for health insurance reform. I also want to recognize Erica Williams of Campus Progress and so many passionate leaders of our next generation who are with us here. They drove the campaign for change last year, and they are driving the movement for health insurance reform today. I want to thank you, Krisja Hendricks, for joining us to share her personal story. Your struggles - like those of so many other young Americans - are the real motivation we should need to pass health insurance reform this year.

"Young adults are the most uninsured group in the country. They often lose coverage at age 19 when they graduate from high school or a few years later when they graduate from college. Once they enter the workforce, they face new obstacles to getting insurance. Today, they are speaking out and their voices are being heard. For many weeks, young Americans have added to the call to the chorus for reform. They have offered specific proposals about health insurance reform that works for everyone.

"Our legislation answers their call by: ending discrimination based on pre-existing medical conditions, capping out-of-pocket costs, focusing on preventive care, investing in workforce training to boost the number of primary care doctors and nurses, creating a health insurance exchange to give Americans a better deal in the individual insurance market, and speaking personally, a public option in the House bill. Today, I'm pleased to announce that our bill will allow young people to stay on their parents' policy until their 27th birthday if they need it.

"Our young people are our future. This is our opportunity to lay a foundation for growth, progress, and prosperity for our youth, and provide affordable, quality health care to every American. It is an opportunity we will not miss. And to help us achieve our goals is a distinguished Member of the leadership, Chairman Chris Van Hollen."

Speaker Pelosi Closing Statement:

"Thank you Krisja, Ari and Erica, for giving your testimony here today why this is so important for young people. Thank you Congresswoman Dahlkemper and your constituents in Pennsylvania for sending you here to exercise your great leadership for America's young people today and thank you Chris Van Hollen for your relentless leadership on this issue.

"Just think of it -- the difference that the passage of this legislation will make to young people -- as they graduate from college with health insurance, they can follow their dreams. Whether it is to start a business or to be a photographer or a writer, self-employed artist or whatever, but to do what they want to do without being confined by having to find a job that has health care benefits -- not a job that will invigorate the economy in a way that is different.

"Now with this legislation that takes them to their 27th birthday, we take them a long way down the path of some independence, some liberation to follow their aspirations right out of school. Then, of course, we have the full package with an exchange where health care will always be affordable to them. Where we will lower costs, improve quality, expand coverage and retain the choice -- if you like what you have you can keep it. As long as it would pass this legislation to keep the cost down, because the present system is not sustainable.

"I just want to recall that when I was listening to Krisja, I was thinking of young woman who testified from this very spot to all of you. She said that she was a young woman out of college and she was a "young invincible." She didn't think that she was ever going to be sick, but she thought that she would get a plan because she might break a leg snowboarding. And so she did. And low and behold, shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with cancer and she had a very high deductible and co-pay in the plan that a young person would take. And so now, until we can get a better situation for her, she has spent her credit cards to the hilt and she says she spends most of her time working in order to pay off her credit cards to pay off her medical expenses because she was young and invincible and didn't think she would need health care. But again, the high co-pay that young people are prone to assume because it has a lower premium. In any event, we want to correct all of that.

"Rock the Vote, Young Invincibles, and the Campus Progress, thank you. And so many organizations that are represented here for what you have done to help make the change to take our country in a new direction starting in a very personal way in the lives of young people in our country.

"I'm so happy because my grandchildren are here, some of my grandchildren just happened to be here today. And I always say to them that everything we do here is about you, about the future, about the next generation. Certainly, this is.

"We would now be pleased to take any questions that you may have."

Question and Answer Session:

Q: [Inaudible about the Senate Finance Committee not containing a public option.]

Speaker Pelosi: Well, we will have a public option in the House bill, as I said. Let me tell you one other reason why that is important, because it saves a great deal of money. And let me tell you why the American people know it is important, I think the CBS poll had it 62-38 in favor of a public option. Because we in Congress are saying to the American people: you are mandated to have health insurance. But unless we have a public option, we are putting them at the mercy of the health insurance industry and they know it. So they like universal, quality health insurance reform if it has a public option. If it has a mandate, it should have a public option and there should be competition for the insurance companies.

The public is way ahead of the elected officials in this, and we believe that we should have a public option for that reason. It saves money, it keeps the insurance companies honest, it increases competition, and it says to people that we are mandating to have insurance: you are not at the mercy of the health insurance companies; you have an alternative. That gives them leverage. Yes, we will have a public option in the House plan.

Q: Will you consider [... inaudible ... variations on the public option.]

Speaker Pelosi: We are considering different variations on the public option. We want to have the one that does the best job, that saves the taxpayer the most money, that increases competition, that does the job for us. We have three pillars within our bill: middle income affordability, you can lower the cost of any health plan you want, but if you are undermining middle income affordability that is not doing the job. So, middle income affordability, security for our seniors - we want to do the best possible job for our seniors, and we do in the bill by beginning to close the donut hole. And third, a responsibility to our children - to do all of this in the most fiscally sound way. Of course there will be no increase to the deficit, but to begin lower cost after that. We believe that the public option is the best way to get to that place.

Q: Do you have an estimated date from the CBO when you expect the scoring information?

Speaker Pelosi: We are in the process; we go back and forth with the CBO because when we get information, it helps us make some decisions as we go forward and then take that to our Caucus. We are right on track, and I am hopeful that we will have a bill by Thanksgiving. Others say Christmas. Certainly this year.

Q: And if there is no public option...[inaudible?]

Speaker Pelosi: No, I am for a public option. That will be the House position. That will be the position we will go to the conference to fight for.

Q: [Inaudible.]

Speaker Pelosi. I'm sorry?

Q: [Inaudible.]

Speaker Pelosi: No, what we're doing in our legislation is making it affordable, quality, and accessible to young people. And we would hope that this would be the lead that would be followed throughout the conference. We will certainly go there to fight for it.

Q: [Inaudible.]

Congressman Van Hollen: We're in the process of trying to get that piece teased out by the Congressional Budget Office. I actually had a conversation with Peter Orszag late last week and they're trying to figure out exactly what that component would be too. But as you can see, it stands to reason that it will reduce the overall cost because it will mean less affordability credits as we said. Young people are the largest uninsured group -- young adults. So to the extent that you're able to keep them on their parent's insurance policies longer, it means that they're not going to be as much a part of the affordability credits.

If I could just say one word, Madam Speaker, on the public option and the fact that the most recent polling shows that large percentages of Americans support it. We stood here some time ago and said that the more the American people understand how the public option operates, the more support it will have. And that is exactly what is happening because people understand it expands choice and it increases competition and the only people out there it seems to me who have a strong argument against the public option are those that do not want to see quite as much competition. And so...

Speaker Pelosi: The insurance companies.

Congressman Van Hollen: The insurance companies. So the public -- I think what you're seeing as the Speaker said, the public gets it, they're supporting it, and I think the support here in Congress will follow.

Speaker Pelosi: Thank you all very much.

SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House

SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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