Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President on Efforts To Reduce Health Care Costs in Raleigh, North Carolina

March 26, 2024

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello. Hello, North Carolina. (Applause.) (Laughs.) Oh, it's good to be back. It's good to be back. Please have a seat, everyone. Please have a seat.

So, before I begin, I will say a few words on the terrible accident in Baltimore this morning. I know we are all praying for the families of those who are missing and all those who have been touched by this tragedy.

I spoke with the governor of Maryland this morning, and we have directed the federal government to use all the resources that are available to assist with the search and rescue, to reopen the port, and to rebuild the bridge as quickly as possible. And, of course, I know we all will stand and continue to stand with the people of Maryland.

And now, I will discuss the reason why we are here today.

So, again, it is good to be back in this beautiful state. It is good to be here with my dear friend, Governor Roy Cooper. (Applause.)

Governor Cooper and I served together as Attorneys General. And so, I have known his work for many years. And I will tell you, no one fights harder for the people of this state than Roy Cooper. (Applause.) Yes.

I also see your extraordinary Attorney General, Josh Stein -- (applause) -- who is a powerful, powerful defender of our most fundamental rights and freedoms. And thank you, Josh, for all your work.

And to all the leaders here today, thank you.

So, we here agree that access to healthcare should be a right and not just a privilege of those who can afford it. A- -- (applause) -- yes.

And guided, then, by that fundamental belief, over the past three years, President Biden and I have made healthcare more accessible and more affordable for millions of Americans.

We cut the cost of prescription drugs for millions of seniors. We expanded access to Medicare and Medicaid. We made the largest investment in youth mental health in history -- (applause) -- with 14,000 new mental health counselors in schools across our nation, including hundreds right here in North Carolina. And we strengthened the Affordable Care Act so that, today, more Americans have healthcare coverage than ever before in the history of our country. (Applause.)

As you have heard and know, 14 years ago, when he was vice president, Joe Biden helped pass the Affordable Care Act. And he is without doubt one of our nation's greatest champions for affordable healthcare.

Eleven years ago, when I was Attorney General of California, I led 10 other state Attorneys General to defend the ACA in the United States Supreme Court.

And together, we have since signed up millions of Americans for affordable care.

We have also taken on the crisis -- the healthcare crisis of maternal mortality. (Applause.) Because in the 21st century, in the United States of America, it should not be the case that women here die in connection with childbirth at a higher rate than women in any other wealthy nation in the world -- (applause) -- that Black women -- that Black women are three times as likely to die in connection with pregnancy; Native women, twice as likely to die in connection with pregnancy; rural women, one and a half more times as likely to die.?

It is also the case that one of the most significant factors that contributes to this crisis of maternal mortality is that millions of women in America do not have access to adequate postpartum care.

In fact, when we took office, in most states, women on Medicaid were only entitled to two months of coverage for postpartum care -- two months. And only three states -- when we took office, only three states in our nation offered 12 months of postpartum care.??

So, many of you know how I am. We came in and I said, "Okay, let's issue a challenge," which I did, "to every state in our nation: Extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from a measly 2 months?to 12 months."

And I am proud, North Carolina, to report: So far, a total of 45 states have now completed that challenge -- (applause) -- including North Carolina. And, Governor Cooper, thank you for answering the call. (Applause.)

But while President Biden and I are fighting to expand access to affordable healthcare, there are extremists in our country trying to take away healthcare coverage or make it more expensive -- extremists who want to take away coverage from our seniors by trying to cut Social Security and Medicare. They want to take away coverage from working families by trying to gut Medicaid. And they want to take away coverage from people with preexisting conditions by continuously trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

And across our nation, extremists attack a woman's access to healthcare and reproductive healthcare. They have proposed and passed laws that criminalize doctors and punish women. Laws that threaten doctors and nurses with prison time, even for life, simply for providing reproductive care. Laws that even make no exception for rape or incest. The result is a healthcare crisis with real harm.

Consider: Since Roe was overturned, I have met women who were refused care during a miscarriage. I met a woman who went to the emergency room and was turned away repeatedly because the doctors there were afraid they may be thrown in jail for helping her. And it was only when she developed sepsis that she received care.

Earlier this month, I visited a clinic in Minnesota, where I met with medical professionals -- courageous and dedicated women who provide critical healthcare -- (applause) -- who also see, around our country, that clinics just like theirs are forced -- being forced to close around our nation.

And understand: The clinics that extremists are forcing to close, they provide so much more than abortion care. They provide breast cancer screenings, contraceptive care, paps -- essential, lifesaving care being denied to millions of women across our country.

So, I'll end where I began: Access to healthcare should be a right and not just a privilege no matter who you are, where you live, or how much you earn. (Applause.) And President Biden, with your support, will continue to make sure that everyone in our country has the healthcare they need.

And now, to say a few words about the profound impact that access to affordable healthcare has on a family, please join me in welcoming Lori Kelley.

Lori. (Applause.)

MS. KELLEY: Good afternoon, everyone.

AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.

MS. KELLEY: My name is Lori Kelley, and I am from Harrisburg, North Carolina.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Wooo! (Laughter.)

MS. KELLEY: I'm a -- I'm a mother of three and a grandmother of six.

After spending 16 years being locked out of affordable healthcare, today I stand in front of you having coverage now, thanks to Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. (Applause.)

In 2008, I was diagnosed with a progressive eye disease. It affects everything in my daily life, from driving to reading to working. And it -- no health insurance meant no regular checkups for my eyes and no access to care if I got sick and nothing to be done if I had an accident.

And, indeed, an accident happened to me in December. I hurt my finger, and I got a terrible infection. I was really scared because emergency care and surgery that was necessary for me was not in the budget. And it was right then that I found out that I qualified for Medicaid. (Applause.)

Right in the nick of time, I -- I found out through an email, and I thought it was a hoax. But it was true.

And it was because of the Affordable Care Act and the closing of the gap, which President Biden, [Vice] President Harris, Governor Cooper, and many others worked to make a reality. And today, here we are with something to celebrate. (Applause.)

Because of Medicaid expansion, and the tireless advocates who worked to close the gap, now I don't have to worry about how I'm going to have to pay for surgery or the routine care that I need. I have peace of mind now.

I often say that I feel like I got the keys to the kingdom. And I know that there are millions more like me with similar stories. I am truly grateful for the blessing that this is and continues to be for myself and for so many others, which is why I am honored to introduce to you someone who has been fighting for people just like me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Joe Biden. (Applause.)

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President on Efforts To Reduce Health Care Costs in Raleigh, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/371101

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