News Releases

Murray Again Urges HHS Secretary to Save Washington Health Care Programs

Aug 06 2004

Don’t End Successful CAP Programs, Murray Tells Thompson After Hearing; Invites Secretary to Spokane to See CAP Success in Action

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Senator Patty Murray wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and urged him, as she did in a hearing three weeks ago, to fund health care access programs in Washington state that the Bush Administration has been trying to eliminate. Murray also restated her invitation to Thompson to visit Washington state CAP programs.

Senator Murray’s Letter Follows:

The Honorable Tommy G. Thompson
Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary
200 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20201

I am writing to follow up on the July 15th Senate Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Subcommittee hearing regarding Chronic Disease. I am also writing to express my deep concerns about the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) decision to fund only seven fourth year Healthy Community Access Programs (HCAP) grantees, despite the fact that 20 meet the criteria for funding.

At the hearing on July 15th you offered to come out to Washington state and see first hand the success and effectiveness of the HCAP funding. I am pleased to report that I have scheduled a state-wide event with several of the Washington state HCAP programs in Spokane. The purpose of this event is to see the progress being made in Washington state and hear about the importance of these HCAP grantees. I would like to extend an invitation to you personally to join me at this event. I think you will find it extremely informative and I know you will come away from this event with a much better understanding of why I fight so hard for this funding.

The event has been scheduled for August 11th at 3:30PM. If you are interested, please have your office contact my Seattle office at 206-553-5545 to join us in Spokane.

While this event was planned to celebrate the many successes of the HCAP program in Washington State, I am now very concerned that misguided actions by HRSA may signal the end for two critically important HCAP programs. It is my understanding that despite your assurances that the $20 million taken from HCAP would not jeopardize fourth year funding, HRSA has decided to move forward with only seven fourth year grant awards. It is also my understanding that there are potentially 20 grantees that would meet the criteria for fourth year funding. HRSA has decided to bend to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) recommendation that they fund only as many grantees as they did in 2003. There is no language in the authorizing bill that I am aware of that gives OMB the discretion to determine what grantees receive funding. However, it appears that despite broad bipartisan support in Congress for the authorization and appropriation, HRSA is allowing OMB’s will to guide their decisions.

I think it is also clear that the $20 million robbed from HCAP will result in 13 grantees losing their funding. Thirteen grantees that no longer can serve the uninsured. The Health Improvement Partnership (HIP) in Spokane and the CHOICE Regional Health Network have worked to ensure access to care for low-income working families. They have been effective and their very existence is threatened by HRSA’s decision. They are two HCAP grantees who have a proven record of accomplishment and have clearly illustrated how this model can work well. They also meet the criteria for fourth year funding but may be denied access to these important funds because the Administration simply does not support the program.

HIP of Spokane has used their funding to help 12,000 individuals access health insurance. Many of these individuals are in rural communities and lack access to affordable health care. CHOICE Regional Health Network has been building a community-based model for financing and delivering health care to 93,000 people below 250% of poverty. If only all programs had these kind of results.

I am urging your direct intervention into this matter and asking that you reverse HRSA’s decision. You made a commitment to move forward with fourth year funding. Please let us move forward and fund those grantees that are eligible. Please do not allow number crunchers at OMB to shut down HCAP in Washington State.

I look forward to hearing from you and do hope you can attend our HCAP event in Spokane on August 11th.


Patty Murray
United States Senator