News Releases

Whatcom Co. girl is one of 60,000 children in Washington state who get health insurance through CHIP 

More than 100 days have passed since Republicans allowed funding for CHIP, and other vital primary health care programs to expire 

In floor speech, Senator Murray shared additional stories from Ferry Co., Yakima Co. and more, highlighting local impact on Washington state children & programs if funding not renewed

Senator Murray: By pushing partisan tax reform “Republicans put massive corporations and the wealthiest ahead of making sure children and families have the health care they need”

ICYMI: New York Times—Republicans in Congress Are Failing America’s Children

***WATCH VIDEO OF SENATOR MURRAY’S FLOOR SPEECH HERE***

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), top Democrat on the Senate health committee, highlighted the urgent need to provide security and peace of mind to patients and families in Washington state and across the country by restoring funding to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and critical primary care programs, like community health centers (CHCs), teaching health centers (THCs), and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). Senator Murray also urged her Republican colleagues to stop delaying and make long-term support for these programs an immediate priority.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Senator Murray outlined how the current climate of uncertainty was alarming families and communities in Washington state, and shared a story from Whatcom County of one of 60,000 children in the state insured through CHIP. Senator Murray also provided specific examples of the impact of this delay on community health centers and health providers throughout Washington state, including:

  • A community health center serving Ferry County, which is struggling to hire staff and managers due to the current funding uncertainty;
  • A Spokane-area health center, which is evaluating the need to halt expansion plans if Congress does not resolve funding issues;
  • Another community health center in Yakima County, which has three different clinics—mainly serving patients below two-hundred percent of the federal poverty line—that are at risk if Congress does not restore funding soon; and
  • A Port Angeles-based health center network, which is putting expansions for behavioral health care on hold.

Key Excerpts from Senator Murray’s opening statement:

“Today, parents are wondering if they will be able to get the health care their kids need, and communities are wondering if they will be able to provide it. They deserve an answer. Congress must swiftly and fully restore the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, and other services families need—like community health centers—which expired more than one hundred days ago. And they should do so without making deep cuts to successful prevention programs in the Centers for Disease Control that tackle avoidable conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

“But by focusing on pushing through partisan tax reform at the end of the year instead, Republicans put massive corporations and the wealthiest ahead of making sure children and families have the health care they need. I hope they are now ready to give these issues their full and immediate attention—and in case they aren’t, I want to make sure they know exactly what this is about.

“Stella was also born with spina bifida—an issue with how her spinal cord is formed. In just the past year of dealing with her condition, Stella’s family went through five catheters a day, almost two thousand in total. They went on ten different occasions to have MRI scans. They went to get her new leg braces. And, given the cost of all this, they went through their five-thousand-dollar deductible in the first five weeks of the year… Fortunately, Stella qualifies for insurance through CHIP.  CHIP has helped her family afford the treatment she needs, including physical therapy. Stella’s story is one of many, many examples of families who rely on this program.  There are 60,000 children in Washington state who are insured through CHIP…[y]et, Congress has taken over 102 days, and counting, to restore it. There is no excuse for this inaction.

“…the North East Washington Health Programs serve some of the most rural areas of my state, including Ferry County, which has fewer than four people per square mile. They are struggling to hire needed medical staff and managers due to the current uncertainty. Ferry County cannot wait.

“The Community Health Association of Spokane runs 12 health center sites and sees more than 70,000 patients a year. They recently began offering much-needed opioid addiction treatment. If Congress does not reauthorize community health center funding, these efforts will be jeopardized and expansions halted. Spokane cannot wait.

“Yakima Neighborhood Health Services served over 22,000 patients in 2016. Almost all of those patients were below two-hundred percent of the federal poverty line. If Congress does not act soon, three different clinics—including a clinic in one of the poorest cities in Washington—may be at risk. Yakima cannot wait.”

Watch video of Senator Murray’s floor speech HERE.

Full text of Senator Murray’s floor speech below.

Thank you, M. President.

I come to the floor today to talk about an issue that is critical to patients and families in Washington state and across the country. Today, parents are wondering if they will be able to get the health care their kids need, and communities are wondering if they will be able to provide it. This is unacceptable.

Congress must swiftly and fully restore the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, and funding for other services families need—like Community Health Centers—which have been waiting more than one hundred days for a long-term solution. And they should do so without making deep cuts to successful prevention programs in the Centers for Disease Control that tackle avoidable conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Democrats have wanted to get this done for months.

But by focusing on pushing through partisan tax reform at the end of the year instead, Republicans put massive corporations and the wealthiest ahead of making sure children and families have the health care they need. I hope they are now ready to give these issues their full and immediate attention—and in case they aren’t, I want to make sure they know exactly what this is about.

It’s about children like Stella.

Stella lives in Washington state. She is five years old. She has two brothers, a love of the outdoors—especially swimming and kayaking—and a typical kindergartener’s boundless energy and excitement.

Stella was also born with spina bifida—an issue with how her spinal cord is formed.

In just the past year of dealing with her condition, Stella’s family went through five catheters a day, almost two thousand in total. They went on ten different occasions to have MRI scans. They went to get her new leg braces. And, given the cost of all this, they went through their five-thousand-dollar deductible in the first five weeks of the year.

That’s right—it took just five weeks.

Additionally, this year Stella is also scheduled to have bladder and kidney surgery.

As you can imagine, the expenses add up. Even with both parents working, covering Stella’s health care needs would be an unimaginable task. Fortunately, Stella qualifies for insurance through CHIP.  CHIP has helped her family afford the treatment she needs, including physical therapy.

Stella’s story is one of many, many examples of families who rely on this program.

There are 60,000 children in Washington state who are insured through CHIP. Nine million families nationwide rely on it to help address the health needs of their children. Yet, Congress has taken over 102 days, and counting, to restore it. There is no excuse for this inaction.

And families who rely on the CHIP program aren’t alone in needing our immediate attention.

Thanks to CHIP and Medicaid, the uninsured rate among children is at an all-time low. Jeopardizing this accomplishment by letting CHIP twist in the wind is simply unacceptable.

This Republican-controlled Congress has also failed to renew other investments that families rely on for the care they need, like: Community health centers—which serve 25 million patients, particularly in rural and poor communities; the National Health Service Corps—which brings doctors and other care providers to underserved areas through scholarships and loan repayment; and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program—which brings primary care and dental residencies to communities in need.

Leaving these programs without long-term extensions a minute longer is utterly irresponsible—because the lack of certainty is already having a negative impact on our communities.

For example, the North East Washington Health Programs serve some of the most rural areas of my state, including Ferry County, which has fewer than four people per square mile. They are struggling to hire needed medical staff and managers due to the current uncertainty. Ferry County cannot wait.

The Community Health Association of Spokane runs 12 health center sites and sees more than 70,000 patients a year. They recently began offering much-needed opioid addiction treatment. If Congress does not reauthorize community health center funding, these efforts will be jeopardized and expansions halted. Spokane cannot wait.

Yakima Neighborhood Health Services served over 22,000 patients in 2016. Almost all of those patients were below two-hundred percent of the federal poverty line. If Congress does not act soon, three difference clinics—including a clinic in one of the poorest cities in Washington—may be at risk. Yakima cannot wait.

I have heard additional stories of similar hardships from across Washington state. North Olympic Healthcare Network has had to put expansions for behavioral health care on hold. Another health center in Washington may have to reconsider building a new children’s dental residency program. A center serving Whatcom County may have to cancel a project for medical, dental, and behavioral health care facilities as well.

Across the country there are more examples from community health centers just like these, of health care that people of all ages and backgrounds rely on being put in jeopardy—all because Republicans prioritized tax cuts for those at the top before the health needs of millions of people.

It is far past time to show families that we are listening. It is far past time we gave them the peace of mind that they can get the health care they need. Let’s get this done.

Thank you.