Senator Patty Murray has worked to build awareness and increase
funding to address the medical needs of women. Murray's own life
experience as an educator, a working mother of two children, a
grandmother, and a caregiver for her parents have given her a unique
perspective on the challenges women face in obtaining medical care.
In her years in the Senate, Murray has fought to ensure women
have access to the care they need, increased screening and treatment
options for breast and cervical cancer, and worked to promote equity in
Senator Murray has been honored as a “Leader in Women's
Health” by the Women Legislators' Lobby and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories.
In addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
honored Murray with a “Public Service Award” and she has received the
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association’s
“Distinguished Public Servant Award.”
Expanding Health Care Access for Low-Income Women
There are serious challenges facing our country when it
comes to health care. Low-income women and their families in particular
face tremendous challenges accessing needed care. Census data shows
that one in five women of childbearing age are uninsured, and at least
one in eight pregnant women are uninsured. Lack of insurance leads to
increased health complications, including complications during
pregnancy. Senator Murray has also been working to increase coverage of
low-income women and newborns.
Opposing Cuts in Medicaid and Medicare
For many low-income women, Medicaid and Medicare are
critical safety nets. Medicaid finances over one-third of all births in
the U.S. and accounts for over half of all publicly-funded family
planning services. Senator Murray has been a longtime champion of
Medicaid and Medicare and has fought attempts to cut funding for these
- In 2008, Senator Murray supported legislation that
imposed a moratorium on Medicaid regulations that would have cut
funding to states and health care providers by $15-$21 billion
over the next five years.
- In 2007, Murray successfully fought suggested
cuts that would have cut $80 billion from Medicare and Medicaid
over the next five years.
- In 2006, Senator Murray fought efforts to cut these
programs by $10 billion over the next five years. Unfortunately,
Congress passed these cuts, which will reduce the affordability
and accessibility of health care for low-income Americans.
- Murray has also fought the Administration's plans to
block grant Medicaid, which would dismantle the health care
safety net that women and their families rely on. Scaling back
these programs seriously threatens the health care safety net for
millions of women and their families.
Working to Increase Women’s Health Care Coverage
Senator Murray has been working to increase coverage of
low-income pregnant women and newborns.
- In 2009, after multiple attempts, Senator Murray
helped pass a renewed CHIP bill. This bill extends health
insurance coverage to almost 10 million children – up from the 6 million
children currently covered.
- In 2007, she fought for legislation that would have
strengthened CHIP by increasing funding by $35 billion over five
years, expanding health insurance to an additional 3.8 million
low-income children and children of middle class families that
cannot afford care.
- She is a cosponsor of the “Start Healthy, Stay
Healthy Act,” which would give states new options to cover
low-income pregnant women under Medicaid and the State Children’s
Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
- In 2003, Senator Murray lead the fight for an SCHIP
“fix” for Washington state. This fix provided an additional $24
million for low-income women and their families.
- Murray has also consistently supported legislation
to expand eligibility for children under Medicaid and SCHIP.
Fighting Breast and Cervical Cancer By Increasing
Funding for Screening, Treatment and Research
This year in the U.S., over 200,000 women will be diagnosed
with breast cancer, and nearly 40,000 women will die from this
devastating disease. Many of these deaths could be prevented with early
detection. Senator Murray believes that it is critical for the federal
government to support increased funding for screening, treating and
ultimately curing this disease.
- Senator Murray has successfully increased funding
for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) breast
and cervical cancer screening program for uninsured, low-income
- Murray helped provide funding to the Medicaid
program to expand treatment benefits for low-income women
diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Senator Murray has cosponsored legislation to
require health plans to provide coverage for a minimal hospital
stay for mastectomies, lumpectomies, and lymph node dissection
performed for the treatment of breast cancer.
- In 2006, Murray helped pass legislation to
expand research on the relationship between environmental factors
and the development of breast cancer.
- She also supported the National Breast and Cervical
Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, which
was singed into law. This act reauthorizes the National and
Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program and authorizes
appropriations for grants for screening and referral services.
In addition, Senator Murray has worked to increase funding
for breast cancer screening and treatment for women on Medicaid. As a
member of the Appropriations Committee, Murray helped increase funding
for screening and early diagnosis. To ensure treatment for low-income
women, Murray helped secure passage of the “Breast and Cervical Cancer
Treatment Act of 2000,” which provides immediate health care support to
low-income women who are diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer.
Promoting Equity in Health Research
For years, medical research and clinical trials have
excluded women. For example, one famous early medical study on breast
cancer examined hundreds of men – but no women.
This bias has made it harder for scientists to address the
unique medical needs of women.
This can be dangerous because drugs can affect women
differently than due to differences in biology. Women can have
different symptoms for the same diseases, such as heart attacks and
certain diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, affect women at much
higher rates. Senator Murray has worked to address equity in today's
- In 2007, Senator Murray was key to getting the
Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to halt efforts to raid funding
from the Office of Women’s Health for other uses.
- In 1993, as a member of the Senate Appropriations
Committee, Senator Murray worked to establish a new office at the
National Institutes for Health to ensure that federally-funded
research addresses the needs of women. More recently, Murray
cosponsored the “Women's Health Office Act” to establish a permanent
Office on Women’s Health within the Department of Health and Human
- Senator Murray has also helped to increase the focus
on women's health at the CDC by funding new programs on
arthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, the number one
killer of women in America.
- Murray has also worked with the administrator of the
FDA to encourage pharmaceutical companies to include women in
advanced clinical trials of new, life-saving drugs.
Ensuring Women's Access to
Although women's health has advanced tremendously in recent
decades, women still face special challenges in accessing comprehensive
health care. Senator Murray is working to ensure that the unique health
needs of women are met, including:
- Ensuring direct access to Obstetricians and
- Preventing "drive-through mastectomies"
- Protecting access to mammography
- And extending insurance coverage of pap testing.
Direct Access to OB/GYNs
Many insurance and HMO plans require women to see a primary
care physician before they are able to see an obstetrician or
gynecologist. Senator Murray recognizes that OB/GYN care is a major
component of comprehensive women's health care. She has fought for
legislation to ensure women have direct access to an OB/GYN for all
health care needs by:
- Consistently supporting legislation creating a
"Patient’s Bill of Rights"
- Protecting the ability of Washington state
patients to have direct access to an OB/GYN by offering a "direct
access" amendment to proposed small business health insurance plan
Preventing “Drive-Through Mastectomies”
Senator Murray believes that no woman should be forced by
her insurance company to leave a hospital prematurely after a
mastectomy. She has supported legislation to require health plans to
provide coverage for a minimum hospital stay for a woman who has
undergone a mastectomy by:
- Cosponsoring the "Breast Cancer Patient Protection
- Ensuring that Washington state patients are
not stripped of their right to a minimum hospital stay after a
mastectomy by offering a "drive-through mastectomy" amendment to
proposed small business health plan legislation.