Contact: Ashley Etienne/Henry Connelly, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined Seniors Task Force co-chairs Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky and Doris Matsui, Democratic Policy and Communications Committee co-chair Congressman David Cicilline and seniors’ advocates for a press event ahead of the 53rd anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid being signed into law on July 30, 1965. They unveiled a new report documenting years of Republicans’ attacks on seniors and demanded the GOP take action on lowering drug prices. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning everyone. It is my honor to be here with my colleagues, the Co-Chairs of our Seniors Task Force, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Congresswoman Doris Matsui of California and our special guests Pat Cotton, Ron Thompson and Dr. Nicky Mehtani and so many organizations who are here who will join us in celebrating what will be, on Monday, the 53rd birthday of Medicare. Fifty three years – that will be on Monday – 53 years ago, our government made a fundamental promise of dignity and security for seniors and working families when President Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law.
Today, Medicare and Medicaid are the pillars of health and security in our nation, pillars which are sadly under threat from years of relentless attacks from the Republicans. When President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law, he spoke of those initiates’ transformational potential. He said, ‘No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine’. ‘No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime.’ Then he said, ‘No longer will young families see their own incomes and hopes eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents.’ The intergenerational benefit.
But, for years, Republicans have sought to deny seniors and working families the healing miracle of medicine. Republicans want Medicare, in their words, to ‘wither on the vine.’ They want to cut and cap Medicaid into oblivion. They want to give massive tax handouts to big pharma who are denying seniors lower prescription drug prices.
The GOP tax scam is the capstone of the Republican health care agenda of putting the wealthy and well-connected ahead of workers and seniors and families. And yesterday, Republicans released a new version of their same-old scam. Attacking the sacred right to health care is in the Russian – Republican – DNA, that too – I get those R-words mixed up.
Let me repeat this: attacking the sacred right to health care is in the Republicans’ DNA.
Democrats are offering A Better Deal For the People, with lower health costs and stronger protections for all. Democrats are fighting For the People, standing with seniors, while the GOP sells seniors out to help special interests.
A Better Deal – A Better Deal is lowering the price of prescription drugs. Our plan calls for tough new enforcement of drug price gauging, allowing Medicare part D to negotiate drug prices. President Trump promised that during the campaign. In fact during the campaign he said, ‘We’re going to negotiate like crazy.’ I guess ‘like crazy’ means ‘we’re not going to negotiate at all.’
Because when he was supposedly going to make his announcement, what we thought was to call for the Secretary to be able to negotiate for lower prices, he didn’t. He pulled his punch, and pharmaceutical prices soared on the stock market that day. And we want transparency of excessive drug price increases.
But the Congress cannot do our inside maneuvering without grassroots groups’ outside organizing. Inside maneuvering, outside mobilization.
And we’re so pleased to be with so many strong advocates this morning. AFGE, AFCSME, Americans for Tax Fairness, Alliance for Retired Americans, Americans Medical Student Association, The Arc, Caring Across Generations, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Doctors for America, Easter Seals, Justice in Aging, Meals on Wheels, National Health Law Program, National Physicians Alliance, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Religious Action Center, Results, Social Security Works, UFCW. Did I miss anybody?
These and so many others have been instrumental in protecting health care for Americans and especially when the tax bill came out, when the Tax Scam came down, and then following it. After giving a $2 trillion addition to the national debt by giving a trillion and half dollar tax break to corporate America, and giving 1 percent of the population 83 percent of the benefits – they then said we have to pay for it, so we’re going to cut $2 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid. The fight that all of these outside groups did to point out how wrong that was is ongoing, and we’re grateful for it.
So, we’re happy that Pat Cotton, Ron Thompson and Dr. Nicky Mehtani are here with us to speak. And thanks to all the groups that I mentioned for your energy and activism in the fight to defend Medicare and Medicaid.
Now, let’s hear from a life-long champion of America’s seniors – long before she was in Congress and certainly in the Congress of the United States. Please welcome Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
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Leader Pelosi. Thank you very much, Dr. Mehtani. On behalf of my colleagues, the Co-Chairs of our Seniors Task Force Jan Schakowsky and Doris Matsui and the Co-Chair of our Democratic Policy Communications Committee, David Cicilline, I want to thank you Pat Cotton and Ron Thompson for your excellent testimony. Speaking so eloquently, you are our VIPs today. Thank you for being here.
So, on Monday when we observe the anniversary, the anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, let us drink a toast them. This is water. [laughter] This is to Medicare and Medicaid. We wish them happy anniversary, of course.
We salute President Johnson, Lyndon Johnson, for his leadership in passing the bill. And, by the way, when he signed the bill, he went to Independence, Missouri where President Truman was from because President Truman tried to follow up on the establishment of Social Security to establish health care for our seniors and it is a tribute to that ongoing legacy in the Democratic Party of pillars of financial and health security.
So, let us wish a happy anniversary to Medicare and Medicaid and with our commitment and promise that we will work very hard for many good and healthy years to come. Just want to make one other – hear, hear!
Just one other point, the cost of prescription drugs and the assault on the pre-existing condition benefit are two things that the public is very, very aware of. Some people think, ‘Oh they’ll never to anything to Medicare.’ I want to emphasize what was said here by Congresswoman Schakowsky, Congressman Cicilline and Congresswoman Matsui. This is in the budget of the Republicans, to take the guarantee from Medicare. Medicare is a guarantee. To take the guarantee away, you take away Medicare.
They, since the 90s, have been saying, this is their mantra, Medicare should wither on the vine. It has been said, capping and reducing Medicaid, very harmful to our seniors and their families and all whom depend on that.
As Ron said, it is about two-thirds of all long-term care at home and in facilities is paid for by Medicaid.
So, no we don’t want to be fear-mongers, but we want to be fact-tellers and the truth is there’s an ideological opposition to Medicare. Very little support for it when it passed and President Johnson signed it. Very little support from the Republicans, there is an ongoing battle to undo it. Democrats won’t let that happen and, to the extent that the Republicans keep insisting on it, we will remember in November.
Thank you all very much.
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