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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, the U.S. Senate voted on whether to move forward with a bill that would limit protections for women and children who have suffered injuries through no fault of their own. Senator Murray voted against considering the "Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Act," because it fails to address the real crisis in malpractice insurance and instead undermines the rights of women and children. The bill, which needed 60 votes in order to move forward, failed on a 48-45 vote.



Senator Murray submitted the following statement for the Congressional Record.



"Today, the Senate is voting on a political gimmick that will punish women and children and do nothing to address the real medical malpractice crisis that is crippling healthcare throughout our state.



Doctors are facing escalating costs that are unsustainable, but instead of addressing this problem with a common-sense and immediate fix, the majority is engaging in a blame game. We don't have time for the blame game. Instead, we should be debating the bipartisan bill I support to provide immediate relief to doctors, stop frivolous lawsuits, and fix the broken insurance market.



But this bill doesn't just fail to address the real crisis in malpractice insurance; it actually undermines the rights of women and children in the name of helping them.



As a woman, a mother, and a Senator who has fought for the safety and welfare of mothers and infants, I am disturbed that the U.S. Senate would single out women and babies for different treatment than everyone else in America if they are injured through no fault of their own. This bill tells women that if we are injured, we don’t deserve the same legal protections as men.



The sponsors of this bill have spoken about the health and wellbeing of women and babies in hypothetical terms. But I have to tell you, the injuries and crimes that continue to plague female patients are all too real.



Currently, in my home state of Washington, we are following a high-profile case in which an OB/GYN has been accused of raping or molesting dozens of female patients under his care. This doctor is also accused of providing substandard care, ranging from performing unnecessary medical procedures to failing to prescribe prenatal vitamins to a pregnant patient with low iron levels.



In one case, this doctor even performed a surgery despite the fact that his office was not licensed for surgery and did not have a supply of blood available in case of complications.



I ask my colleagues to consider this case. If your wife or daughter or sister had been hurt, molested or worse by this doctor, would a $250,000 cap seem like a reasonable solution?



These cases are not hypothetical. They are not frivolous. And this bill will not protect the health or increase the wellbeing of any of these patients.



I find some sad irony in being told by this bill's sponsors that if I want to help women and babies, I should strip away their rights. I take a backseat to no one when it comes to standing up for women and children.



I wish that the people who are pushing this bill today had shown the same interest when I was fighting to ensure women could get direct access to an OBGYN during the Patients Bill of Rights debate, but instead, they killed that effort. I wish they had shown the same interest in 1999 when I offered an amendment to end drive-through mastectomies, but they killed that effort as well. I wish this bill's sponsors had showed the same concern when I was fighting to improve drug labeling for pregnant women, but instead, they killed that proposal as well. They weren't on the side of women during all those fights, but here they are today, using the real shortage of OBGYNs and the real malpractice crisis as an excuse for punishing women and babies without giving doctors or patients the help they desperately need.



If the sponsors of this bill are now serious about helping ensure healthy women and babies, I say "Come on over" I've got a long list of legislation that they can sign onto today to really help women - like extending Family and Medical Leave, boosting the federal Medicaid match for OBGYNs, and expanding Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for low-income pregnant women. The single most important step to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby is prenatal care. Fully-funding and expanding CHIP would provide this care to low-income women who would otherwise go without.



The saddest part of this exercise is that we should be spending this time discussing a real solution, like the bipartisan bill I am cosponsoring with Senators Graham and Durbin, the Better HEALTH Act (S.1374). If the Senate leadership really wants to help doctors and patients, they will bring up the widely-supported Graham-Durbin bill for a vote and stop playing games at the expense of women and babies. Every day they deny a vote on this bipartisan bill speaks volumes about their interest in a real solution.



The Graham-Durbin bill would give doctors an immediate 20 percent tax rebate on their malpractice premiums, provide federal help for a broken insurance market, and block frivolous lawsuits. That's the type of comprehensive, immediate and effective solution our doctors, patients and communities deserve.



My Action Plan to fix the malpractice crisis has four steps. The first thing we’ve got to do is get doctors and hospitals some immediate relief – because the clock is ticking. Even if proposals to cap non-economic and punitive damages were passed this year, it is impossible to predict when–if ever-doctors and hospitals would see relief. That’s not good enough for me, and it's not good enough for the doctors in my community. I want doctors and hospitals to get immediate relief.

Under the Graham-Durbin bill, doctors in high-risk specialties would be eligible for a tax credit that's 20 percent of their malpractice premium. Doctors in lower-risk specialties would get a 10 percent tax-credit. For-profit hospitals would get a 15 percent tax credit, and non-profit hospitals would get new grants. Immediate financial relief directly to doctors and hospitals must be part of any solution to the malpractice crisis.

Second, we've got to cut down on frivolous lawsuits. Under the Graham-Durbin bill, every plaintiff attorney that files a medical malpractice case would be required to include an affidavit by a qualified health care professional verifying that malpractice has occurred. No more launching lawsuits that don't have merit. And anyone who violates this affidavit is going to be punished with strict, and increasingly harsh, civil penalties. We are not going to tolerate frivolous lawsuits, and that's the second part of the Graham-Durbin bill.



Third, we need to provide additional protections for doctors who are doing the right thing and serving patients through Medicare, Medicaid and S-CHIP. Doctors with a 25 percent caseload of Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) patients would be protected from punitive damages under the Graham-Durbin bill. Exemptions would only be allowed for cases involving sexual abuse, assault and battery, and falsification of records. Other than that – there will be no punitive damages for doctors who are doing the right thing and serving Medicare, Medicaid and S-CHIP patients.



Finally, the Graham-Durbin bill says the federal government should underwrite some of the risk in malpractice insurance – just as we have with terrorism and flood insurance. Doctors and hospitals should not have to shoulder the burden of a broken insurance market.



If the Senate leadership is serious about helping doctors and patients, it will bring up the bipartisan Graham-Durbin bill. It provides immediate and direct financial relief to doctors and hospitals. It cuts down on frivolous lawsuits. It limits liability for doctors with high Medicaid caseloads, and it provides federal help for a broken insurance system.



As I've done for the past 10 years, I will continue to advocate for the policies that truly help women and infants and I'll continue to stand up for my doctors, patients and communities who deserve an immediate, comprehensive solution to the malpractice insurance crisis. And let me repeat, I welcome the support of any Senator who wishes to sign onto the legislation I have outlined today."