What many of us forgot, as health care reform slogged through the mud, is that this quest, for Barack Obama, was deeply personal. This is a man whose mother was battling insurance companies while she was dying of cancer. You don’t think that kept a fire burning during the dark days after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts?
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 — 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.
I can comprehend how huge this is on an intellectual level, but on a gut level, it still eludes me. It may take a week, a month, a year, or even a decade for it to sink in. But today, I know this: unfettered capitalism was reined in just a little bit today, and the government stands, even if ever so slightly, a little more on the side of its citizens.
As long as it keeps traveling in that direction, I’ll be fine.