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Chris Dodd, D-CT
Mr. DODD. I thank my colleagues.
Mr. President, some of these numbers get thrown around so much that it is almost dizzying. I wonder how the average person, even someone who is intently listening to these debates, can sort it all out: 47 million who have no coverage; 14,000 people every single day in our country who lose health care coverage either because they are thrown into personal bankruptcy or because of medical costs or job loss around the country--14,000 a day, every day, 7 days a week. Just do the math. For 7 or 8 days,
we have been debating this legislation. You can run the numbers yourself to determine over that period of time how many citizens across the country have found themselves in that free fall, that dreaded fear that a child or a loved one may end up needing care. It is not as though you can postpone the decision to some later time, as you can about whether to take a vacation or to buy that new car or maybe to spend more than you thought you would
over the holidays coming up. If you now have a medical emergency and you are one of those 14,000 a day who have lost coverage, what do you do? So sometimes the sheer magnitude of these numbers can cause us to lose sight of the individual stories, anecdotes that are not exclusive or isolated but commonplace stories that are happening as we speak here on this Sunday, on a rare Sunday session in the Senate because of the importance of this issue.
So I rise today to share a few stories from my own State that I think put a face on these issues and why we are here. Let me start by asking some questions because I think too often when we debate these issues, sometimes we are so removed as Members of this body, from what goes on in the daily lives of the people we represent that we fail to appreciate what is happening right outside these doors from this very Chamber on a daily and an hourly occasion. The 535 of us who have the privilege of
serving in the Congress, including Members of the other body, none of us here are worrying about losing our health care. Not a single Member here ever spent a nanosecond worrying about whether they are going to be dropped from their health care coverage--not one.
Is there anybody among the 535 of us who ever worries about whether we will be able to afford health care insurance? I don't know of anyone who ever worries about that, of the 535 who are here.
Has anyone ever been up late at night with a child or a loved one, wondering whether they are going to be able to afford the treatment that child may need, or that loved one? I would go so far as to say I don't think that happens here. God forbid if we are confronted with a child or a loved one who needs that care. We may worry about that, but we are not going to worry about whether the insurance will be there or whether we will have the ability to pay for it. Not one of us ever worries about
Has anybody ever spent hours being bounced from voice mail to voice mail to voice mail trying to find out why the insurance company you pay thousands of dollars to every year suddenly refuses to pay for your spouse's cancer treatments? Has that ever happened to anyone here? I doubt it. I sincerely doubt it.
Is there anyone stuck in a job that pays very little because you can't afford to change jobs because you have a preexisting condition and you know if you go to that new job that may pay more, you are going to find yourself without the insurance coverage to take care of that preexisting condition? No one here worries about being in that particular predicament.
Has anyone been driven into bankruptcy, any Members of Congress, because they had a medical crisis? We now know that 62 percent of all bankruptcies this year alone are medical crisis related, and 70 percent of that 62 percent have health care insurance--70 percent of that 62 percent.
Is anybody here a small business owner who has had to choose between cutting coverage or putting your employees out of work?
Well, the answer to all of these questions obviously is a resounding no. None of us have ever had to grapple with what 14,000 people do in this country every day: losing their coverage, or the underinsured who discover all of a sudden that the coverage they thought they had doesn't quite cover the problems, or the out-of-pocket expenses you have to pay before getting to insurance are so high that you can't possibly meet them. That goes on every minute of every day all across our Nation, and it
is why we are here on this Sunday in December, to try to finally see if we cannot come to terms and start moving on a coverage program, a health care and health insurance coverage program that makes it possible for all of our fellow citizens to be in the same position we are.
None of us are immune from health care crises. Every one of us here has grappled with that at one time or another. The difference is, we don't ever worry about the ability to pay for it, losing our coverage, having to go through what every other citizen does every single day. [Page: S12530]
These are real people who go through this. We can get so lost in the weeds on this debate. I am not suggesting the details are unimportant--they are important--but we are losing sight of the whole; that is, for 80 years every single Congress, whether it has been controlled by Republicans or Democrats, whether a Democrat or Republican has been in the White House, has been unable to even come close to solving this problem.
We are now that close--closer than we have ever been in our history--to coming up with a health care system that can begin to take care of that basic right every American ought to have--and it is a right--that if you are a citizen of the United States and you get sick, you ought not to be shoved into bankruptcy, lose your job, or have your family suffer because of your economic circumstances. The privilege of getting good health care ought not to be based on wealth; it ought to be based on the
fact that we live in the United States of America and we are able to take care of our fellow citizens when they reach those difficult times every one of us will at one point or another.
There are stories, and I know my colleagues have them as well.
A young woman in Connecticut, Maria, diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, asked her insurance company to cover her treatments. The insurance company found out that Maria had once gone to a doctor for what she thought was a pinched nerve. Even though no tests had been done for cancer, they denied her claim based on a preexisting condition. How many have heard these stories? She passed away, by the way, from that illness.
A young man named Frank disclosed on his insurance application that he sometimes got headaches. Some months after he got his policy, he went in for a routine eye exam. The doctor saw something he didn't like and sent him to a neurologist, who told him that he had multiple sclerosis. The insurance company told him he should have known his occasional headaches were a sign of MS and took away his coverage retroactively. Frank's doctor wrote them a letter saying there was no way anyone could have
known that an ordinary headache was related to multiple sclerosis. But the insurance left Frank out to dry, sticking him with a $30,000 medical bill he couldn't afford. Frank's condition got worse. He had to leave his job and go on public assistance.
Kevin Galvin is a small business owner in my State. I have met with Kevin a number of times, and we have talked over the last year or so during my Connecticut Prescriptions for Change listening tour. Kevin owns a small business, a maintenance company. He employs seven people, some older, some younger. He can't afford to insure them. He would like to, but he can't afford it. His younger employees use the emergency room as their regular doctor. If one of them has a child with an ear infection----