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!