“Good morning. Can you feel the excitement in the room? We are so proud today to have with us the Vice President of the United States! This is our opportunity to publicly express our graduate to Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama for believing in our Community Health Centers and for moving forward with the promise of accessible and affordable health care for millions of Americans,” said NACHC Board Chair, Dr. Gary Wiltz as he opened the Friday’s NACHC Policy and Issues Forum General Session.
Despite the extra security measures and the schedule changes an excited crowd showed up early and packed the ballroom at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. They waited in anticipation for hear from the Vice President and gave him a standing ovation as he took the podium.
“You got this backwards, I came to thank you,” said Vice President Biden as he greeted the crowd.
Throughout his speech the Vice President touched on the optimism and the invaluable resource Community Health Centers offer the millions of American’s they serve.
On the optimism of health centers Vice President Biden said:
“You are the moral backbone of this country, you and so many thousands of people like you, who just believe in possibilities and believe it’s one person at a time.”“Without you the country would be a very different place. The thing I love about you all is that in the face of all you see you remain optimistic. It matters. You believe in possibilities. Great things happen when people believe.”
“This country has always been about possibilities. We’ve always believed that anything is possible and the kind of work you have done reflects that belief.”
On the invaluable resources health centers offer their communities:
“Think about what those cities, those communities, those neighborhoods would be like if you hadn’t been around all these years. Think of how fundamentally the lives of those communities would change without you.”
“21 million patients rely on you all, more than 3.7 million—about 18 percent—of your patients are children; for them and their families you’re the first place they go for primary care. You’re the first time they’ve probably ever seen a dentist. The first time they’ve ever seen behavioral health services.”
“Community Health Centers are the indispensable resource for so many people out there who are underserved and underinsured. You’ve been the only place millions of folks have been able to go to for basic care. And in the process of treating your patients you have eased many of their concerns and fears about the Affordable Care Act. You’ve overcome language barriers and geographic distances. You’ve been so successful because people trust you.”
The Vice President also thanked health centers for their part in helping Americans sign-up for health coverage through the exchanges and Medicaid.
“The reason I’m here and Barack wanted me to be here is to thank you. Thank you so much for what you’ve done, not for us but for the American people. The president and I think you provide an incredible service to this country.”
“Just in the last quarter of 2013 you helped 2 million people in the face of that confusion. You helped them. You helped them enroll. They walked through your doors or they reached out to you in the community, and you made a difference. You answered their questions. You walked them through the enrollment process.
More than 5 million people now have signed up for the private health plans through the marketplace and that doesn’t include the numbers for those who now have access through Medicaid.
The Vice President added that while the enrollment process is complicated, the assistance Community Health Centers provide is a critical service to those newly eligible.
“Look, it’s complicated, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s complicated for people who have never thought they’d be able to have insurance. No matter how good the bargain is, it’s especially challenging for folks who are looking at it for the first time. With patience and empathy, you look these people in the eye. And the first thing you do is you calm them down.”
“Not only do we need you, not only have done an incredible job but we owe more than we can possibly pay you for doing so much as you are for the American people. Thank you very much for all you do.”
Before ending his speech Vice President Biden also reminded the health centers that the deadline for enrolling is only days away and asked health centers to “remember why you are doing this in the first place. In these last ten days push as hard as you can. Expanding access makes a gigantic difference.”