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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate calling on her colleagues to work together to reform the broken health care system this year, and telling the stories of two Washington state constituents who had lost their jobs, lost their health care, and ultimately lost their lives. Senator Murray discussed the need for health care reform that will rein in costs and ensure that all Americans have high quality, affordable coverage.

In her speech on the floor of the Senate, Senator Murray shared with her colleagues stories sent to her by Rita Johnson from Seattle, WA and Kathleen Smith from Puyallup, WA.

Excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

“I think the fact that these stories are possible in the greatest and richest country in the world is simply shameful. No son should lose a mother simply because she cannot afford care. And no family should have to watch a loved one suffer because insurance companies – instead of doctors – are making the decisions. This is why we need to reform our health care system this year.”

“So when I hear some of my colleagues from across the aisle saying that we should slow down, saying that we should take more time, or that we are trying to reform health care too fast. And when I see them shrugging off every attempt we have made at engaging and bringing them into the process, I think of Kelly, and I think of Janet.  And I think of all of the families out there right now with sick husbands, sick wives, sick children. And I think of small business owners who can’t afford to cover their employees, people who have coverage but are worried about losing it in this uncertain economy, or the working Americans who are paying a ‘hidden tax’ in the form of rising premiums in order to cover those Americans who don’t have access to care And as a mother and a Senator I say enough is enough.”

“We cannot continue to play politics with the most important thing to our nation’s families- the health of their loved ones. They say that justice delayed is justice denied, well, health care delayed is too often health care denied. It was denied to Kelly, it was denied to Janet, and it gets denied to more Americans every single day we wait.”

The stories were among over 5,000 stories sent to Senator Murray through her new website murray.senate.gov/healthcarereform.

Senator Murray’s full speech follows:

“Mr. President, three weeks ago I sent a letter to families across Washington state asking for their help as we work to reform our broken health care system.

“I told them I wanted to pass a plan that protects existing coverage when it’s good, improves it when it’s not, and guarantees care for the millions who have none.

“And I asked them to share with me their stories and ideas about how to make this vision a reality.

“I told them that I know that health care is a very personal issue. But also that personal stories have the power to change minds and transform debates.

“And Mr. President—the response has been overwhelming.

“I want to share some of the stories that have been pouring into my office- over 5,000 so far- because they underscore not only the desperate need to fix our broken health care system, but also the dire necessity to get it done this year.

“Because for too many families, health care reform cannot wait.

“Mr. President, I want to tell my colleagues about a letter I received from Rita from Seattle, who sent me a story about her sister Janet.

“Janet was unemployed and had lost her health insurance when her throat began to hurt one day in 2004.

“She paid out of her own pocket to visit a health clinic, and was sent home with antibiotics.

“Weeks later, and still in pain, Janet finally managed to get an appointment with a specialist- but was told she had to wait 6 weeks to come in.

“Only after begging them for an appointment was she seen by the specialist three days later—to be told that the pain she had been living with was the late stages of an aggressive form of throat cancer.

“Janet died not long after—a death that might have been prevented had she been able to see a specialist earlier.

“But Janet is not alone.

“Kathleen, from Puyallup, WA, sent in a story about her friend Kelly.

“Kelly had just been laid off from work when she came down with what she thought was the flu.

“She didn’t have health insurance, and she couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, so she waited.

“Two weeks later and feeling even worse, she finally made an appointment to go in for a check-up.

“Kelly never made it to the doctor.

“Her seven year old son found her dead on the couch on the morning she was supposed to go in.

“She had died from an untreated ovarian cyst.

“And because Kelly didn’t have health insurance, another little boy no longer has a mother.

“Mr. President, I think the fact that these stories are possible in the greatest and richest country in the world is simply shameful.

“No son should lose a mother simply because she cannot afford care.

“And no family should have to watch a loved one suffer because insurance companies – instead of doctors – are making the decisions. 

“Mr. President—this is why we need to reform our health care system this year.

“Our country has been working on this issue for sixty years—and we have spent months and months this session working to put together a reform package that works for all Americans.

“We have had over 6 months of hearings.  We went through over 50 hours of public markups.  We debated over 200 amendments.   

“So when I hear some of my colleagues from across the aisle saying that we should slow down. Saying that we should take more time, or that we are trying to reform health care too fast.

“And when I see them shrugging off every attempt we have made at engaging and bringing them into the process, I think of Kelly, and I think of Janet.  And I think of all of the families out there right now with sick husbands, sick wives, sick children.

“And I think of small business owners who can’t afford to cover their employees, people who have coverage but are worried about losing it in this uncertain economy, or the working Americans who are paying a “hidden tax” in the form of rising premiums in order to cover those Americans who don’t have access to care

“And Mr. President- as a mother and a Senator I say enough is enough.

“Unfortunately, not all of our friends on the other side feel the same way. 

“Just yesterday we heard some pretty ugly – and blatant - rhetoric. 

“Mr. President, one member of the Senate who wants to protect the status quo said - quote – “If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." – unquote.

“Mr. President, this type of posturing is playing games with real lives in order to score cheap political points.

“Blocking health care reform won’t break the President.  But it will break American families.  It will break American businesses.  It will break the bank.

“America deserves better.  The families of Janet and Kelly deserve better.

“We cannot continue to play politics with the most important thing to our nation’s families- the health of their loved ones.

“Mr. President, they say that justice delayed is justice denied,

“Well, health care delayed is too often health care denied.

“It was denied to Kelly, it was denied to Janet.

“And it gets denied to more Americans every single day we wait.

“So I call on my colleagues across the aisle to work with us—to rise above partisanship.

“We have a good plan right now, and we are working to make it even better.

“It will rein in costs with the goal of lowering them across the board long-term.

“And it will ensure that all Americans have high quality, affordable coverage.

“Mr. President—this issue is not going to go away if we do nothing.

“When I head home and talk to people around the state of Washington, I’m often asked if now is the right time to tackle health reform. In these difficult economic times, people are worried that we’re biting off more than we can chew.

“But, Mr. President, now is exactly the time to act. As I’ve said, premiums are rising three time faster than wages. And every day, 14,000 Americans are losing their health insurance. In already difficult times, I don’t want to add losing health insurance to the list of family concerns.

“The current system is unsustainable. Even those with great coverage are faced with massive costs and rising premiums. That’s why tackling this problem now must be part of our long-term economic recovery. Without health care reform, family budgets will continue to be strapped and more Americans will lose their care.

“Now is the time to act.”