President Obama Signs Health Reform Into Law

(applause) The Vice President:
Thank you all. (applause) Let them celebrate a little bit. Audience:
Fired up! Ready to go! Fired up! Ready to go! The Vice President:
Thank you. Mr. President, I think
we got a happy room here. (laughter) It seems ridiculous to say
thank you all for being here. (laughter) Ladies and gentlemen, to state
the obvious, this is a historic day. (applause) In our business you use that
phrase a lot, but I can’t think of a day in the 37 years that
I’ve been a United States senator and the short time I’ve
been Vice President that it is more appropriately stated. This is a historic day. And history — history is not
merely what is printed in textbooks. It doesn’t begin or end
with the stroke of a pen. History is made. History is made when men and
women decide that there is a greater risk in accepting a
situation that we cannot bear than in steeling our spine and
embracing the promise of change. That’s when history is made. (applause) History is made when you all
assembled here today, members of Congress, take charge to change
the lives of tens of millions of Americans. Through the efforts of those of
us lucky enough to serve here in this town, that’s
exactly what you’ve done. You’ve made history. History is made when a leader
steps up, stays true to his values, and charts a
fundamentally different course for the country. History is made when a leader’s
passion — passion — is matched with principle to
set a new course. Well, ladies and gentlemen,
Mr. President, you are that leader. (applause) Mr. President, your fierce
advocacy, the clarity of purpose that you showed, your
perseverance — these are in fact — it is not hyperbole to
say — these are the reasons why we’re assembled in this
room together, today. But for those attributes
we would not be here. Many, many men and women are
going to feel the pride that I feel in watching you shortly,
watching you sign this bill, knowing that their work — their
work has helped make this day possible. But, Mr. President, you’re
the guy that made it happen. (applause) And so, Mr. President, all of
us, press and elected officials, assembled in this town over
the years, we’ve seen some incredible things happen. But you know, Mr. President,
you’ve done what generations of not just ordinary, but great men
and women, have attempted to do. Republicans as well as
Democrats, they’ve tried before. Everybody knows the story,
starting with Teddy Roosevelt. They’ve tried. They were real bold leaders. But, Mr. President,
they fell short. You have turned, Mr. President,
the right of every American to have access to decent health
care into reality for the first time in American history. (applause) Mr. President, I’ve gotten
to know you well enough. You want me to stop because
I’m embarrassing you. (laughter) But I’m not going to stop for
another minute, Mr. President, because you delivered on a
promise — a promise you made to all Americans when we
moved into this building. Mr. President, you are — to
repeat myself — literally about to make history. Our children and our
grandchildren, they’re going to grow up knowing that a man named
Barack Obama put the final girder in the framework for a
social network in this country to provide the single most
important element of what people need — and that is
access to good health — (applause) — and that every American from
this day forward will be treated with simple fairness
and basic justice. Look, the classic poet, Virgil,
once said that “The greatest wealth is health.” The greatest wealth is health. Well, today, America becomes a
whole lot wealthier because tens of millions of Americans will be a whole lot healthier from this moment on. Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States
of America, Barack Obama. (applause) The President:
Thank you, everybody. Thank you. (applause) Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you everybody. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. (applause) Thank you. Please, have a seat. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. (applause) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Please, have a seat. Thank you, Joe. (laughter) The Vice President:
Good to be with you, Mr. President. (laughter) The President:
Today, after
almost a century of trying; today, after over a year of
debate; today, after all the votes have been tallied —
health insurance reform becomes law in the United
States of America. (applause) Today. (applause) It is fitting that Congress
passed this historic legislation this week. For as we mark the turning of
spring, we also mark a new season in America. In a few moments, when I sign
this bill, all of the overheated rhetoric over reform will
finally confront the reality of reform. (applause) And while the Senate still has
a last round of improvements to make on this historic
legislation — and these are improvements I’m confident
they will make swiftly — (applause) — the bill I’m signing will
set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have
fought for, and marched for, and hungered to see. It will take four years to
implement fully many of these reforms, because we need to
implement them responsibly. We need to get this right. But a host of desperately needed
reforms will take effect right away. (applause) This year, we’ll start offering
tax credits to about 4 million small businessmen and women to
help them cover the cost of insurance for their employees. That happens this year. (applause) This year, tens of thousands
of uninsured Americans with preexisting conditions, the
parents of children who have a preexisting condition, will
finally be able to purchase the coverage they need. That happens this year. (applause) This year, insurance companies
will no longer be able to drop people’s coverage
when they get sick. (applause) They won’t be able to place
lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on the amount
of care they can receive. (applause) This year, all new insurance
plans will be required to offer free preventive care. And this year, young adults
will be able to stay on their parents’ policies until
they’re 26 years old. That happens this year. (applause) And this year, seniors who fall
in the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole will
start getting some help. They’ll receive $250 to help
pay for prescriptions, and that will, over time, fill
in the doughnut hole. And I want seniors to know,
despite what some have said, these reforms will not cut
your guaranteed benefits. (applause) In fact, under this law,
Americans on Medicare will receive free preventive
care without co-payments or deductibles. That begins this year. (applause) Once this reform is implemented,
health insurance exchanges will be created, a competitive
marketplace where uninsured people and small businesses will
finally be able to purchase affordable, quality insurance. They will be able to be part of
a big pool and get the same good deal that members
of Congress get. That’s what’s going to
happen under this reform. (applause) And when this exchange is up and
running, millions of people will get tax breaks to help them
afford coverage, which represents the largest
middle-class tax cut for health care in history. That’s what this
reform is about. (applause) This legislation will also lower
costs for families and for businesses and for the federal
government, reducing our deficit by over $1 trillion in
the next two decades. It is paid for. It is fiscally responsible. And it will help lift a
decades-long drag on our economy. That’s part of what all of you
together worked on and made happen. (applause) That our generation is able to
succeed in passing this reform is a testament to the
persistence — and the character — of the American people, who
championed this cause; who mobilized; who organized; who
believed that people who love this country can change it. It’s also a testament to the
historic leadership — and uncommon courage — of the men and women of the United States Congress, who’ve taken their lumps during this difficult debate. (laughter) Audience Member:
Yes, we did. (laughter) The President:
You know, there
are few tougher jobs in politics or government than leading one
of our legislative chambers. In each chamber, there are
men and women who come from different places and face
different pressures, who reach different conclusions about the
same things and feel deeply concerned about
different things. By necessity, leaders have
to speak to those different concerns. It isn’t always tidy;
it is almost never easy. But perhaps the greatest — and
most difficult — challenge is to cobble together out of those
differences the sense of common interest and common purpose
that’s required to advance the dreams of all people —
especially in a country as large and diverse as ours. And we are blessed by leaders
in each chamber who not only do their jobs very well but who
never lost sight of that larger mission. They didn’t play for the short
term; they didn’t play to the polls or to politics: One of
the best speakers the House of Representatives has ever had, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (applause) Audience:
Nancy! Nancy! Nancy! Nancy! The President:
One of the best majority leaders the Senate has ever had, Mr. Harry Reid. (applause) To all of the terrific committee
chairs, all the members of Congress who did what was
difficult, but did what was right, and passed health
care reform — not just this generation of Americans will
thank you, but the next generation of Americans
will thank you. And of course, this victory
was also made possible by the painstaking work of members of
this administration, including our outstanding Secretary of
Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius — (applause) — and one of the unsung heroes
of this effort, an extraordinary woman who led the reform effort
from the White House, Nancy-Ann DeParle. Where’s Nancy? (applause) Today, I’m signing this reform
bill into law on behalf of my mother, who argued with
insurance companies even as she battled cancer in
her final days. I’m signing it for Ryan
Smith, who’s here today. He runs a small business
with five employees. He’s trying to do the right
thing, paying half the cost of coverage for his workers. This bill will help him
afford that coverage. I’m signing it for 11-year-old
Marcelas Owens, who’s also here. (applause) Marcelas lost his
mom to an illness. And she didn’t have insurance
and couldn’t afford the care that she needed. So in her memory he has told her
story across America so that no other children have to go
through what his family has experienced. (applause) I’m signing it for
Natoma Canfield. Natoma had to give up her health
coverage after her rates were jacked up by more
than 40 percent. She was terrified that an
illness would mean she’d lose the house that her parents
built, so she gave up her insurance. Now she’s lying in a hospital
bed, as we speak, faced with just such an illness, praying
that she can somehow afford to get well without insurance. Natoma’s family is here today
because Natoma can’t be. And her sister Connie is here. Connie, stand up. (applause) I’m signing this bill for all
the leaders who took up this cause through the generations —
from Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, from Harry Truman, to Lyndon Johnson, from Bill and Hillary Clinton, to one of the deans who’s been fighting this
so long, John Dingell. (applause) To Senator Ted Kennedy. (applause) And it’s fitting that Ted’s
widow, Vicki, is here — (applause) — it’s fitting that Teddy’s widow, Vicki, is here; and his niece Caroline; his son Patrick, whose vote helped make this reform a reality. (applause) I remember seeing Ted walk
through that door in a summit in this room a year ago — one of
his last public appearances. And it was hard
for him to make it. But he was confident that we
would do the right thing. Our presence here today is
remarkable and improbable. With all the punditry, all
of the lobbying, all of the game-playing that passes for
governing in Washington, it’s been easy at times to doubt our
ability to do such a big thing, such a complicated thing; to
wonder if there are limits to what we, as a people,
can still achieve. It’s easy to succumb to the
sense of cynicism about what’s possible in this country. But today, we are affirming that
essential truth — a truth every generation is called to
rediscover for itself — that we are not a nation that scales
back its aspirations. (applause) We are not a nation that falls
prey to doubt or mistrust. We don’t fall prey to fear. We are not a nation
that does what’s easy. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we got here. We are a nation that faces its
challenges and accepts its responsibilities. We are a nation that
does what is hard. What is necessary. What is right. Here, in this country,
we shape our own destiny. That is what we do. That is who we are. That is what makes us the
United States of America. And we have now just enshrined,
as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody
should have some basic security when it comes to
their health care. (applause) And it is an extraordinary
achievement that has happened because of all of you and all
the advocates all across the country. So, thank you. Thank you. God bless you, and may God
bless the United States. (applause) Thank you. Thank you. All right, I would now like to
call up to stage some of the members of Congress who helped
make this day possible, and some of the Americans who will
benefit from these reforms. And we’re going
to sign this bill. This is going to
take a little while. I’ve got to use every pen, so
it’s going to take a really long time. (laughter) I didn’t practice. (laughter) (The bill is signed.) We are done. (applause)

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