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HEALTH CARE: Murray Speaks on Affordable Care Act, Tells Story of WA Cancer Survivor

Sep 18 2013

Murray shares story of Washington state cancer survivor who was able to continue accessing life-saving care because of the Affordable Care Act



Discusses the outrageous Tea Party focus on repealing Obamacare, threatening government shutdown

(Washington, D.C.) – Today,  U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke on the Senate floor about the irresponsible Tea Party threats to shut down the federal government if Obamacare is not repealed.  Senator Murray shared the story of Nikki Mackey, a woman she met recently while back in Washington state, who is fighting breast cancer. Nikki was laid off from her job in the midst of the recession and just nine months later was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer.  And instead of focusing on her treatment, she had to worry about her coverage. Fortunately, due to the Affordable Care Act, Nikki will not need to worry that her coverage is in jeopardy due to a lifetime limit. And she will never have to worry about not getting coverage in the future due to her pre-existing condition.  Murray urged her colleagues to drop these harmful attacks, and to work together to make sure the Affordable Care Act is implemented in the best possible way for families, businesses, and communities, to help people like Nikki and millions of others just like her. 

Key excerpts from Sen. Murray’s speech, including the story of Nikki Mackey:

“Just last month, I was home in Washington state, and I met an incredible woman named Nikki Mackey, who lives in Seattle.

“On September 16th, 2010, Nikki was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer. She was only 36 years old.  She was terrified of what this disease would do to her. And to make matters worse – instead of focusing on her treatment, she had to worry about her coverage.

“Mr. President, that’s because just a few months before her diagnosis, in the midst of the recession, Nikki had been laid off from her job.

“So there she was, with her coverage at risk, and years of treatment ahead of her.

“But thanks to Obamacare – a law some of my colleagues want to undermine at any cost – Nikki will never have to worry about reaching a lifetime cap, and she will never have to worry about not getting coverage due to her pre-existing condition.

“And Mr. President that’s why we worked so hard to pass this law, because it says that in America you shouldn’t go broke just because you get sick, and you shouldn’t be denied care simply because you can’t afford it.

“So let’s be very clear about what’s happening here – and the political calculation that some of our colleagues have made. They’ve decided they’re willing to play politics with Americans’ health care—They’ve decided it’s better for them to sabotage this law than improve it—and they’ve decided that beyond all that – they’re also willing to devastate our nation’s economy to kill this law.

“We will not let that happen.

“Mr. President, Nikki told me that when she turns on her TV and sees members of Congress using every trick in the book to kill this law, she feels her own well-being is under attack.

“So Mr. President, I want to be very clear: Democrats are not going to agree to defund or delay health care reform. It’s just not going to happen.

Senator Murray’s full remarks, as prepared:

“Mr. President—I want to start by joining my colleagues in expressing my deepest condolences to the families of those lost in Monday’s tragic shooting.

“The thoughts and prayers of the nation are with those who are still recovering.

“And I know I speak for my constituents in Washington state in thanking the law enforcement community here in Washington, D.C., who put their lives on the line every day to protect the families and workers of our nation’s capital. 

“We don’t yet have all the answers to the many questions a tragedy like this raises. But those questions will continue to be asked.

“And I am hopeful the answers will help our nation heal, and will guide our continued work to prevent these kinds of tragedies in the future. 

“Mr. President, like many of my colleagues, I spent this past August traveling around my home state and meeting with my constituents.

“I heard from Washington state families about a wide range of issues facing our nation—but the one sentiment I heard over and over again, from every part of the state—was they were sick and tired of the constant lurching from crisis to crisis.

“They told me how disappointed and disgusted they were every time they turned on their televisions over the past few years and saw another story about Congress hurtling toward another artificial deadline, hurting the economy, and causing more uncertainty for our businesses.

“They said they wanted Congress to work together, focus on the economy, and put our country and the families we represent before partisanship and political games.

“And Mr. President, I couldn’t agree more.

“Like them, I am frustrated that we seem to be, once again, headed toward another completely avoidable, completely unnecessary, self-inflicted crisis.

“It has now been 179 days since the Senate and the House passed our budgets.

“When the Senate Budget passed, I was optimistic that—because both Republicans and Democrats said they wanted to return to regular budget order—we might be able to get back to a responsible process.

“At that time, we had 192 days to reach a bipartisan budget agreement, and I thought the next step should be a budget conference where the two sides get in a room, we hash out our differences, and we work together toward a deal.

“But some of my Republican colleagues had other ideas.

“They immediately seemed to regret their push for a Senate Budget— and they started running away from the debate as quickly as they could.

“I went to the Senate floor with my colleagues a total of 18 times to ask for consent to start a budget conference with the House.

“But every time we tried, a member of the Tea Party here in the Senate—backed by Republican leaders—stood up and blocked us.

“Instead of using the months we had to work out a compromise, Republicans seemed to think it was in their best interest to stall as long as possible, under the misguided theory that a crisis would give them more leverage.

“Mr. President, I had hoped my Republican colleagues had spent their time back home talking to their constituents and would be ready to come back to D.C. and get to work on a balanced and bipartisan budget deal.

“But sadly, the opposite has happened.

“While I believe the majority of Republicans are interested in working with Democrats to get to a fair budget deal— a few of my Republican colleagues spent the summer riling up the Tea Party and making them promises that couldn’t be kept.

“And since Republican leaders know they need to find a way to avoid another crisis that would be blamed on them—a full scale civil war has broken out within the Republican Party—they are in absolute disarray—and they are having trouble figuring out how to pull themselves out from the hole they’ve climbed into.

“While we wait for Republicans to join us at the table, the Tea Party is pushing our country closer and closer to a government shutdown—and closer and closer to what would be a catastrophic default on our loans.

“And why are they doing this?

“Not because they are concerned about the budget.

“And not because they are interested in jobs or economic growth.

“To them, it’s all about Obamacare.

“Everything they are doing now, they are doing in order to cut off health care coverage for 25 million people; end access to free preventive health care; cause seniors to pay more for their prescriptions; cut off young adults from their coverage; bring back lifetime coverage caps and let patients with pre-existing conditions be denied care; put the insurance companies back in charge of our health care system; and so much more.

“These political games might play well with the Tea Party base.

“But here’s the reality: Obamacare is the law of the land. It passed through the Senate with a supermajority. It passed the House. The President signed it into law.  The Supreme Court upheld it.  It’s already helping millions of Americans stay healthy and financially secure. And it is on track to help millions more.

“And Mr. President, when I see some of my colleagues working so hard to defund Obamacare—I have to wonder whether they’ve taken the time to meet some of their own constituents who are already benefitting from this law.

“Just last month, I was home in Washington state, and I met an incredible woman named Nikki Mackey, who lives in Seattle.

“On September 16th, 2010, Nikki was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer. She was only 36 years old.  She was terrified of what this disease would do to her. And to make matters worse – instead of focusing on her treatment, she had to worry about her coverage.

“Mr. President, that’s because just a few months before her diagnosis, in the midst of the recession, Nikki had been laid off from her job.

“So there she was, with her coverage at risk, and years of treatment ahead of her.

“But thanks to Obamacare – a law some of my colleagues want to undermine at any cost – Nikki will never have to worry about reaching a lifetime cap, and she will never have to worry about not getting coverage due to her pre-existing condition.

“And Mr. President that’s why we worked so hard to pass this law, because it says that in America you shouldn’t go broke just because you get sick, and you shouldn’t be denied care simply because you can’t afford it.

“So let’s be very clear about what’s happening here – and the political calculation that some of our colleagues have made. They’ve decided they’re willing to play politics with Americans’ health care—They’ve decided it’s better for them to sabotage this law than improve it—and they’ve decided that beyond all that – they’re also willing to devastate our nation’s economy to kill this law.

“We will not let that happen.

“Mr. President, Nikki told me that when she turns on her TV and sees members of Congress using every trick in the book to kill this law, she feels her own well-being is under attack.

“So Mr. President, I want to be very clear: Democrats are not going to agree to defund or delay health care reform. It’s just not going to happen.

“We should all be working together right now to make sure it is implemented in the best possible way for our families, businesses, and communities.

“And we are certainly very interested in hearing from anyone—Democrat or Republican—who has good ideas about ways the law can be improved.

“But we are not going to allow the health care of Nikki, or millions of other Americans, be used as a pawn in a political game.

“We aren’t going to let this law get sabotaged as it continues to benefit millions of families and small business owners.

“And the sooner Republicans realize this, the sooner we can get to work defusing this latest artificial crisis.

“Mr. President, we know the families we represent don’t support the Republicans’ sabotage tactics.

“Recent polls show fewer than one in four people support efforts to make health care reform fail, and that a majority believe we in Congress should be trying to make the law work as well as possible.

“It is also very clear that Americans would rightly blame Republicans if the government shuts down—especially over an issue like this.

“Mr. President—many Republicans know this too.

“My colleague Senator Johanns said these defunding and delaying efforts have ‘zero chance of being successful.’

“And Senator Burr even said it is ‘the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.’

“House Republican leaders know this too.

“That’s why they introduced a bill last week that would allow a government funding bill to pass, while giving House Republicans a vote to defund health care that had no chance of becoming law.

“But the Tea Party wasn’t interested in that.

“They don’t want a show vote—they want a shutdown. And they are going to keep fighting until they get it.

“So Mr. President, we now have two weeks before the end of the fiscal year, and a potential government shutdown.

“It is a shame that it got to this point—but now that we are here, we owe it to the American people to come together and find a path forward that is good for the economy and fair for the middle class.

“My goal has been, and will continue to be, a long-term budget agreement that replaces sequestration, tackles our deficit and debt responsibly, and invests in workers and the economy.

“But since it seems clear the House won’t be able to get its act together in the next two weeks, the least they should be able to do is send us a clean, short-term extension of current budget levels, so the government doesn’t shut down while we continue to negotiate on a longer-term budget deal.

“And Mr. President, I want to be clear about something: Democrats are not going to negotiate over whether or not Congress should allow the federal government to pay its bills.

“As Speaker Boehner has said in the past, default would be ‘a financial disaster, not just for us, but for the worldwide economy.’

“Republicans need to take those words to heart, and stop threatening the economic recovery with their saber-rattling and brinkmanship.

“We went through this earlier this year.

“And back then, after spending months saying they wouldn’t raise the debt limit unless they got dollar-for-dollar spending cuts, Republicans dropped their demands—dropped the so-called ‘Boehner rule’—and allowed the debt ceiling to be increased.

“Going back to the reckless approach of 2011—and drumming up all that uncertainty again—is nothing but a huge—and harmful—waste of time.

“Mr. President, it is ridiculous that we find ourselves on the brink of an artificial crisis once again.

“We should be doing everything possible to support the economic recovery and help our workers get back on the job.

“We should be spending our time finding common ground to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges responsibly.

“And we should be working together to build on the Affordable Care Act to continue improving our health care system for our families and small business owners.

“But instead, we are mired in the muck of perpetual partisanship and constant crises.

“Mr. President—the American people deserve better.

“Nikki—and the millions of families like hers—deserve better.

“And I am hopeful that Republican leadership stops focusing so much on their extreme Tea Party minority, and comes to the table to work with us on the balanced and bipartisan deal the vast majority of the American people are expecting.

“And I hope they don’t need to wait until a crisis hits before they do it.

“Thank you. I yield the floor.”