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Murray Urges Senate Colleagues to Work Together To Pass Health Insurance Reform

Nov 20 2009

In speech on Senate floor, highlighted benefits of reforms to Washington families and small business owners

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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray made a speech on the floor of the Senate highlighting the benefits to Washington state families and small businesses of the comprehensive Senate health insurance reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was formally unveiled on Wednesday. 

Senator Murray told the stories of Chris Brandt, from Spokane, Washington and Patricia Jackson from Woodinville, Washington to demonstrate to her colleagues to need for health insurance reform that will bring families stable, affordable health insurance coverage.

Murray’s speech comes on eve of a Senate procedural vote on the health insurance reform bill.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

“If we do not pass this bill, health insurance premiums will continue to skyrocket. If we fail to act, health insurance companies will continue to deny patients coverage simply because they are sick. And if we let another year go by without reform, more and more families will lose their coverage, and more and more small businesses will collapse under the growing burden of health insurance.”

“We have been talking about reforming our health insurance system for a long time. But now, Mr. President, we owe it to the American people to give them more than talk. To give them—finally—the stability and security of a health insurance system that will be there for them when they need it, and that can’t be taken away from them if they get sick or lose their jobs.”

“Families are already struggling in the toughest economic climate since the Great Depression and they simply can’t afford these kinds of cost increases.  The bill we will be debating finally makes insurers compete for the business of the American people. That is what families and small businesses owners in Washington state and across the country want and need.  And it’s what they deserve.”

“It is now time to end the politics, end the partisanship, and come together to bring our families and small business owners the health insurance reforms they deserve. 

“I urge my all of my colleagues to work with us in a constructive way as we debate this bill, and to rise above partisanship to make health insurance reform work for our families, for our economy, and for our country.”

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Mr. President, after a lot of hard work, our country is closer than we have been in decades to passing real health insurance reform that will provide families and businesses with affordable, stable health insurance coverage.

“There is a lot of debate and work still ahead of us, but it should not go unnoticed that this is a big moment for our country—and it could not have come soon enough. 

“With our economy hurting and Americans across the country worried about keeping their jobs or making a mortgage payment, the last stress they need is to worry about the cost of getting sick,  being dropped from their plan or opening the mail to see yet another premium increase

“Health insurance premiums for families in my home state of Washington have more than doubled in the past 10 years—and are rising at a rate five times faster than salaries.

“Families and small business owners are paying more and more for their coverage, and too often, getting less and less in return.

“Mr. President, these numbers demonstrate clearly what families and small business owners across my home state of Washington understand all too well—that the status quo in the health insurance system is unsustainable and the cost of inaction is just too high for them to bear.

“The news we got back from the Congressional Budget office on Wednesday is encouraging.  

“It shows the American people that our bill saves money while protecting Medicare and ensuring that families and businesses can take back control over their own health care choices.

“If we do not pass this bill, health insurance premiums will continue to skyrocket, If we fail to act, health insurance companies will continue to deny patients coverage simply because they are sick. And if we let another year go by without reform, more and more families will lose their coverage, and more and more small businesses will collapse under the growing burden of health insurance.

“But Mr. President, it doesn’t have to be this way.

“We have been talking about reforming our health insurance system for a long time. But now, Mr. President, we owe it to the American people to give them more than talk.

“To give them—finally—the stability and security of a health insurance system that will be there for them when they need it, and that can’t be taken away from them if they get sick or lose their jobs.

“Six months ago I sent a letter to my constituents asking for their stories and thoughts on health insurance reform.  And the response was simply overwhelming.

“I have received over 10,000 letters and e-mails from people across Washington state sharing their health care stories with me.

“These stories came from small business owners, employees, and moms and dad  who told me they are struggling under the cost of care today

“So many of them can’t afford the status quo—and deserve health insurance reform that allows them to keep their coverage if they like it, gives them additional options if they don’t, makes care more affordable, and guarantees stable coverage that can’t be taken away when it is needed most.

“I have come to this floor over the past few months as we have worked to put together the Senate bills. And I have shared some of these stories with my colleagues.

“But Mr. President, now that we have a plan on the table I want to tell two of these stories once more to demonstrate the desperate need for us to move quickly and pass this bill.

“Chris Brandt, from Spokane, Washington, told me a story about his problems finding coverage.

“Chris is a healthy young man who works for a small business that can’t afford to provide coverage to its employees. So Chris has had to find coverage on his own through the individual market.

“He told me that after paying his mortgage, car payments, and student loans—the only insurance he can afford is a catastrophic plan that might keep him out of bankruptcy if he gets sick. But even this plan has more than doubled in the last two years.

“Mr. President, Chris wants to have insurance- he doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone else if he gets sick. But he just can’t keep up with the rising costs.

“We need a system that encourages people like Chris to get high quality insurance that covers preventive care so that small, inexpensive medical problems can be treated before they become large, expensive medical problems.

“This will keep our families healthy—and it will save the system money in the long run.

“Mr. President, I also received a story from Patricia Jackson from Woodinville, Washington

“Like many working families, the Jacksons have private insurance through their employer and pay premiums each month directly out of Patricia’s paycheck.

“But also like most families, the burden of those premium payments is rising too quickly.

“To provide care for her family of four, Patricia paid $840 a month in 2007. Then, in 2008, her payments jumped to $900 a month. This year, Patricia paid $1,186 a month. And just recently her rates were hiked to $1,400 a month.  This is an increase of over 66% in just 3 years

“Patricia and her family simply can’t afford for this to continue—and they are not alone.
Family health coverage rose over 86% between 2000 and 2007—an increase of over $5,600 in Washington state. While wages during that time period grew only 16%.

“And just this August, the largest private insurer in my state hiked their rates by an average of 17%.  And some small business owners are reporting premium increases of up to 40%.

“Mr. President, families are already struggling in the toughest economic climate since the Great Depression and they simply can’t afford these kinds of cost increases.

“The bill we will be debating finally makes insurers compete for the business of the American people. 

“That is what families and small businesses owners in Washington state and across the country want and need.  And it’s what they deserve. 

“It will make health insurance more stable and it will end unfair and deceptive insurance company practices like cherry picking, and canceling coverage because of  pre-existing conditions.

“It is going to reward what works in the system, change what doesn’t, and finally start reining in costs to make health care more affordable.

“It will allow people like Chris to get high quality coverage—and it will rein in costs for people like Patricia.

“And this is more important now than ever before as the economy struggles and the costs of care continue to rise.

“Mr. President, we have been talking about reforming our health insurance system for a long time.  And while we have talked, families and small businesses have suffered.

“It is now time to end the politics, end the partisanship, and come together to bring our families and small business owners the health insurance reforms they deserve.

“As we move forward with this debate I will be working to ensure that the needs and priorities of Washington’s families and businesses are preserved  and that we move forward in a way that ensures the future health of our families and the strength of our economy.

“I urge my all of my colleagues to work with us in a constructive way as we debate this bill, and to rise above partisanship to make health insurance reform work for our families, for our economy, and for our country.

“I yield the floor.”