While Washington spent the past year arguing, more than 120,000 Coloradans saw double digit increases in their health insurance. And 57,000 more Coloradans became uninsured.
In the short time I've been in the Senate, I've heard from thousands of Coloradans who found themselves victim to the terrible feeling of not knowing how they were going to pay the bills if their child or spouse got sick.
Help is now on the way. This week, health care reform was signed into law and will give peace of mind to these very families -- an historic milestone that had eluded previous leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, for generations.
These important reforms will expand coverage to 95 percent of Americans. It will provide tax credits to almost 70,000 Colorado small businesses. It will reduce the deficit. And it will reform a number of the worst abuses in the health insurance industry that have victimized innocent patients for years.
Many elements of this law will go into effect right away.
Affordable coverage will be available to those with preexisting conditions, and lifetime limits on coverage will end. Seniors will see improved care, and young adults will have added coverage. Free preventive care and reduced prescriptions will be provided. And health insurance will become more competitive and open, leading to a reduction in costs.
Together, we overcame major hurdles to get to this point. Some tried to use their votes on the legislation to their political advantage, while others tried to do nothing more than hold up progress in an attempt to kill the bill, which would have put Colorado and American families further at risk.
And even now as progress on health care is finally at hand, Republicans are trying to derail the important changes we are making in the reconciliation bill. And unfortunately, some Democrats, like my primary opponent, are playing politics and putting it at risk. They are knowingly playing right into the hands of opponents of health care reform, including the insurance industry.
Just like the health care reforms that are now law, the bill before the Senate this week is far too important to use as a political football.
This bill would close the senior prescription drug coverage loophole that most people know as the "donut hole." It would remove the special political deals, like the "cornhusker kickback." It would further reduce the deficit up to $1.2 trillion over the next two decades and cover even more Americans, bringing the total to 32 million Americans.
This will not happen if the political games continue. That is why public option supporters, including many organizations that have been on the front line of the fight with me, are urging a vote on the reconciliation bill, without any amendments.
Once the reconciliation bill is passed, we must remain committed to getting a public option as a choice for health care in this country. I have long fought to include a public option in the health care reform package, because our friends and families want choice. I will continue this fight in the months ahead.
We will get our vote.
I will continue to put Colorado first, no matter the consequences, because this is about solving problems and not about playing politics. I know that when politics at its worst prevails, the special interests win and the needless bickering that has typified Washington is rewarded.
With reforms that represent a generational, groundbreaking step forward from business as usual, I say that we cannot afford to wait.