News Releases

Senate health committee holds final public hearing with health care stakeholders on steps to lower health care costs for families in Washington state, nationwide

Sen. Murray: “Hope that our conversations over the last few weeks can mark a turning of the page away from partisanship on health care” 

At hearing, Sen. Murray reiterated opportunities for common ground around multi-year fix for out-of-pocket cost reductions, programs to assist states in strengthening markets, and robust and effective open enrollment outreach

Sen. Murray: “Governors have suggested ways to speed up and streamline the process in ways that don’t result in coverage loss…Insurance commissioners have talked about ways to increase flexibility and actually allow for improvements for patients” 

ICYMI—Sen. Murray op-ed: How we can find common ground on health care 

***WATCH VIDEO OF SEN. MURRAY’S OPENING REMARKS HERE***

(Washington, D.C.) The Senate health committee, led by Sen. Patty Murray, the committee’s top Democrat, held its final scheduled hearing today with doctors, hospitals, and patients on bipartisan steps Congress can take to stabilize the individual insurance market. If Congress doesn’t act as soon as possible, Americans face higher premiums and fewer coverage options in 2018 as a direct result of sabotage and uncertainty in the individual insurance market, including hundreds of thousands of individuals in Washington state.

In her opening statement, Sen. Murray highlighted key areas of common ground—like multi-year certainty for out-of-pocket cost reductions, reinsurance, and consumer outreach and assistance—and encouraging conversations on offering more flexibility to states that don’t undermine guardrails patients and families rely on.

Key Excerpts from Sen. Murray’s Opening Statement:

“We’ve heard from many people, including Republican and Democratic witnesses, who see the need for multiple years of certainty on out-of-pocket cost reductions, as well as the need for reinsurance to assist states in strengthening markets. And we’ve acknowledged the importance of making sure outreach around open enrollment is robust and effective so that families are informed about their coverage options.”

“I was also glad to hear in Tuesday’s hearing that we agree on the need to uphold patient protections in any deal we reach. I’ve been glad to hear ideas, inside these hearings and out, for offering more flexibility to states—many of which take approaches that don’t undermine our core goal of  stabilizing markets and lowering costs for families.”

“Governors have suggested ways to speed up and streamline the process in ways that don’t result in coverage loss, raise patients’ costs, or undermine quality of care. Insurance commissioners and patients have talked about ways to increase flexibility and actually allow for improvements for patients—but without putting insurance companies back in charge or undercutting core patient protections. So I am encouraged by that. And I am hopeful we can get a result.”

“Now, to be clear—some of the proposals I’ve heard discussed would leave people vulnerable to these negative consequences—undermine essential health benefits—and take us back to a time when plans didn’t cover maternity care, substance use disorder treatment, mental health, or prescription drugs. That would be unacceptable—and I don’t think either side expects that we settle those larger issues in this current negotiation.”

“But I’m confident there’s room for common ground, right here in the coming days—that makes it easier for states to innovate in ways that make health care work better for patients, and I’m looking forward to continued discussion on this.”

Full Video of Sen. Murray’s Opening Remarks Available HERE.

Full Text of Sen. Murray’s Opening Statement:

“Thank you very much, Chairman Alexander.

“I am so grateful to you for returning us to a committee process.

“This is the way things ought to go and the way we should be getting things done here in the Senate, and I appreciate your leadership in holding these hearings.  

“I want to thank our colleagues who are joining us today—and our witnesses who are taking time out to be with us, as well.

“This is our last scheduled hearing on bipartisan steps we can take to stabilize the individual insurance market, so that millions of Americans won’t face higher premiums and fewer coverage options in 2018 and beyond.  

“I’m pleased we’ve had productive, bipartisan conversations over the last two weeks.

“In the coffees we’ve held with our witnesses and in the hearings themselves, we’ve gotten valuable input from governors, experts, and members on both sides of the aisle.

“As well as from Senators who don’t serve on this committee but care deeply about making our health care system work better.

“I’m grateful for all of this input—and I think it indicates an enormous amount of common ground on key issues—so I’d like to discuss the opportunity I think we have in front of us in a bit more detail.

“We’ve heard from many people, including Republican and Democratic witnesses, who see the need for multiple years of certainty on out-of-pocket cost reductions, as well as the need for reinsurance to assist states in strengthening markets.

“And we’ve acknowledged the importance of making sure outreach around open enrollment is robust and effective so that families are informed about their coverage options.

“I was also glad to hear in Tuesday’s hearing that we agree on the need to uphold patient protections in any deal we reach.

“I’ve been glad to hear ideas, inside these hearings and out, for offering more flexibility to states—many of which take approaches that don’t undermine our core goal of  stabilizing markets and lowering costs for families.

“Governors have suggested ways to speed up and streamline the process in ways that don’t result in coverage loss, raise patients’ costs, or undermine quality of care.

“Insurance commissioners and patients have talked about ways to increase flexibility and actually allow for improvements for patients—but without putting insurance companies back in charge or undercutting core patient protections. So I am encouraged by that. And I am hopeful we can get a result.

“Now, to be clear—some of the proposals I’ve heard discussed would leave people vulnerable to these negative consequences—undermine essential health benefits—and take us back to a time when plans didn’t cover maternity care, substance use disorder treatment, mental health, or prescription drugs.

“That would be unacceptable—and I don’t think either side expects that we settle those larger issues in this current negotiation.

“But I’m confident there’s room for common ground, right here in the coming days—that makes it easier for states to innovate in ways that make health care work better for patients, and I’m looking forward to continued discussion on this.

“I feel optimistic that there’s much more we agree on than disagree on—I think many of us here today feel the same way—and I want to again express my appreciation to all of you for your work in getting us to this point.

“People across the country are looking to Congress for solutions on health care.

“It’s a deeply personal issue and one that has been far too partisan and divisive for too long.

“I hope that our conversations over the last few weeks can mark a turning of the page away from that kind of partisanship.

“And that we can take some steps in the next few days and weeks and then keep the conversation going here in our committee in the months ahead. Thank you.”