The following is a transcript of a speech, as prepared for delivery by The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services at the Democratic National Convention, on Tuesday, September 4, 2012
From 1965 to 1967, my dad, Jack Gilligan, served in Congress and helped pass landmark laws like the Voting Rights Act. Dad later became a great governor of Ohio, but one of his proudest accomplishments was when, as a congressman, he helped draft and pass Medicare. Today, at 91, my father is a happy beneficiary of that effort to bring quality health care to every senior citizen. And President Obama is building upon that legacy by bringing quality and secure health care to every American.
I was governor of Kansas when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts. Many of us watched in amazement—envy, even—as he passed a universal health care law in his state. Well, Republicans may see Romneycare as a scarlet letter. But for us Democrats, Obamacare is a badge of honor. Because no matter who you are, what stage of life you're in, this law is a good thing.
First, if you already have insurance you like, you can keep it. Insurance companies can no longer refuse to cover Americans with pre-existing conditions. That's what change looks like.
More than five million seniors have already saved money on their prescription drugs, and almost 33 million have benefited from free preventive services. The president cracked down hard on Medicare and health care fraud, recovering a record-breaking $10.7 billion over the last three years, protecting our seniors. That's what change looks like.
The law gives tax credits to 360,000 small businesses so they can give their employees coverage and an array of affordable, private insurance plans to choose from. That's what change looks like.
If you're self-employed, between jobs, or can't get insurance through work, you'll have access to affordable health insurance as good as Congressman Paul Ryan's. That's what change looks like.
If you're under 26, you can stay on your parents' plan. You can go back to school or get extra training without fear of a health catastrophe bankrupting your family. Over three million previously uninsured young adults are now on their parents' plans. That's what change looks like.
And under Obamacare, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against women. Before, some wouldn't cover women's most basic needs, like contraception and maternity care, but would still charge us up to 50 percent more than men—for a worse plan. They said women who had C-sections or survived breast cancer or even domestic violence had "pre-existing conditions" and would deny them coverage. But this president made it illegal to discriminate against women and ended the practice of insurance companies charging women higher premiums than men for the same coverage. This president ensured women's free access to preventive services like breast cancer screenings. Being a mother is no longer a liability, and being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition! That's what change looks like.
Today, nearly 13 million Americans are experiencing something remarkable: Instead of sending checks to their insurance companies, insurance companies are sending checks to them—over a billion dollars this year alone.
Because if insurers don't spend at least 80 percent of your premium dollars on your health care, you get a refund. That's what change looks like.
I've spent my career fighting the worst practices of insurance companies. I know how tough it is to stand up to powerful forces that prey on consumers. Governor Romney and Paul Ryan know how tough it is, too. That's why they won't do it! They'll let insurance companies continue to cherry-pick who gets coverage and who gets left out, priced out or locked out of the market. President Obama is making sure that everyone—from cancer survivors to children with asthma—can get the care they need.
What's missing from the Romney-Ryan plan for Medicare is Medicare. Instead of the Medicare guarantee, Republicans would give seniors a voucher that limits what is covered, costing seniors as much as $6,400 more a year. President Obama extended the program's life by eight years while improving seniors' benefits, and strengthened the Medicare guarantee. (The president agrees with you: no vouchers!)
Romney and Ryan will take away women's basic health services and turn a blind eye to insurance discrimination.
President Obama stands up for women, giving us control over our own health care. Romney and Ryan would put insurance companies back in control.
Barack Obama was raised by Kansas women, and I know Kansas women. They taught him the values of hard work, responsibility and fairness. That's why President Obama believes that if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the security of health care.
Governor Romney, Congressman Ryan and their Republican colleagues say it's everyone for themselves. And that, fundamentally, is the choice in this election. Between Republicans who only fight for the favored few or a president who fights for the middle class. Between a nation whose politics play on the worst of our fears and a nation whose laws reflect the best of our values.
Forty-seven years ago, my dad proudly watched President Johnson sign Medicare into law. That day, President Johnson said few people "have the courage to stake reputation and position and the effort of a lifetime upon such a cause when there are so few that share it."
President Obama is one of those people. A leader with uncommon compassion and uncommon courage. He has earned more than our gratitude. He has earned four more years!