News Releases

Senate health committee holds first public hearing with state insurance commissioners on steps to stabilize individual insurance market, including Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler

At hearing, Sen. Murray reaffirms need to uphold and strengthen patient protections; pushes for multi-year certainty for out-of-pocket cost reductions

Sen. Murray: Any agreement must move us “forward, not backward, on affordability, coverage, and quality of care”

In advance of hearings, Sen. Murray heard directly from Washington state families last month to learn about their challenges accessing quality, affordable care

ICYMI—Sen. Murray op-ed in WaPo ahead of hearings: “How we can find common ground on health care”

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

(Washington, D.C.)  Following an agreement between Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), today the Senate health committee held the first of four scheduled hearings on bipartisan steps Congress should take to stabilize the individual insurance market. If Congress doesn’t act as soon as possible, 18 million Americans will face higher premiums and fewer coverage options in 2018 as a direct result of President Trump’s actions to implement Trumpcare by sabotage. In advance of these hearings, last month Sen. Murray travelled across Washington state and heard directly from patients, providers and families to learn more about their challenges accessing life-saving care and what changes they would like to see to improve health care for their communities.

The Senate health committee today heard testimony from state insurance commissioners representing all parts of the country: Commissioner Mike Kreidler from Sen. Murray’s home state of Washington, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Theresa Miller, Alaska Division of Insurance Director Lori K. Wing-Heier, and Oklahoma Department of Insurance Commissioner John Doak.

At the hearing, Sen. Murray criticized the Trump Administration for its repeated efforts to sabotage health care by undermining outreach and consumer assistance efforts, putting forward executive orders designed to inject uncertainty into the markets, and threating to cut off payments to reduce coverage costs for low-income people. Sen. Murray called on her colleagues to work toward a multi-year solution for out-of-pocket cost reductions in order to provide the kind of certainty that will have the most impact on families’ premiums and choices in the marketplaces, and presented a number of ideas by Democrats that would help stabilize markets and lower costs in the near term.

Note: Tomorrow, Thursday, September 7th, the committee will also hear from Governors from Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana, Tennessee and Utah, followed by additional health care hearings with state flexibility experts on September 12th and health care stakeholders representing doctors, hospitals, insurers, and patients on September 14th. 

Key Excerpts from Ranking Member Murray’s Opening Statement:

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done to undo the damage this Administration has caused within our health care system because President Trump is still trying to create Trumpcare by sabotage.  Our health care system is more stable than President Trump’s tweets would have you believe—but it is weaker as a direct result of steps his Administration has taken. The President has undermined outreach and consumer assistance efforts and put forward executive orders seemingly designed to inject uncertainty into the markets. Just last week his administration cut funding for outreach by 90 percent and funding for consumer assistance by over 40 percent.”

“And another pressing example is the Administration’s ongoing threats to cut off payments to reduce coverage costs for low-income people. Should these out-of-pocket cost reductions be discontinued, independent analysis suggests that premiums could be an average of 20 percent higher next year for the most popular plans on the exchanges. There will be even more uncertainty in the markets—and patients and families will likely have fewer options when they go to pick their plans. That’s unacceptable. It’s also avoidable. Congress can act right away to confirm once and for all that out-of-pocket cost reductions will continue—and we have a narrow window to do that before insurers finalize their plans for 2018 later this month.”

“I’m glad there are members on both sides of the aisle who agree we need to take this step, and I believe it is critical that we work toward a multi-year solution in order to provide the kind of certainty that will have the most impact on families’ premiums and choices in the marketplaces. It takes plans months to develop their rates. If we don’t find a multi-year solution, we’re just going to be back in this room trying to patch the same problem a few months from now. And that’s simply not what certainty looks like.”

“We’ve put forward a number of ideas that would help stabilize markets and lower costs in the near term. And as I’ve said before, as we work together I’m more than ready to consider additional ideas from the other side of the aisle to make our health care system work better for patients and families. But to be clear, this means moving forward, not backward, on affordability, coverage, and quality of care. I think we’re all well aware threading this needle won’t be easy. But I do believe an agreement that protects patients and families from higher costs and uncertainty, and maintains the guardrails in our current health care system, is possible.”

Video of Sen. Murray’s Opening Statement available here.

Full Text of Sen. Murray’s Opening Statement:

Thank you, Chairman Alexander.

I want to start by expressing my appreciation for your leadership in holding these hearings.

It’s refreshing to have an opportunity for frank and bipartisan discussions on the health care system, and consistent with the longstanding tradition of working across the aisle on our committee.

I’m also very grateful to each of the state insurance commissioners who have come a long way to join us. Your perspective is incredibly valuable in this discussion, and I’m looking forward to hearing from each of you.

I particularly want to acknowledge Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who is here today. Thank you so much for everything you do for our state.

We’re beginning these conversations at an important moment for patients and families.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done to undo the damage this Administration has caused within our health care system because President Trump is still trying to create Trumpcare by sabotage. 

Our health care system is more stable than President Trump’s tweets would have you believe—but it is weaker as a direct result of steps his Administration has taken.

The President has undermined outreach and consumer assistance efforts and put forward executive orders seemingly designed to inject uncertainty into the markets. 

Just last week his administration cut funding for outreach by 90 percent and funding for consumer assistance by over 40 percent.

And another pressing example is the Administration’s ongoing threats to cut off payments to reduce coverage costs for low-income people.

Should these out-of-pocket cost reductions be discontinued, independent analysis suggests that premiums could be an average of 20 percent higher next year for the most popular plans on the exchanges.

There will be even more uncertainty in the markets—and patients and families will likely have fewer options when they go to pick their plans.

That’s unacceptable. It’s also avoidable.

Congress can act right away to confirm once and for all that out-of-pocket cost reductions will continue—and we have a narrow window to do that before insurers finalize their plans for 2018 later this month.

I’m glad there are members on both sides of the aisle who agree we need to take this step, and I believe it is critical that we work toward a multi-year solution in order to provide the kind of certainty that will have the most impact on families’ premiums and choices in the marketplaces.

It takes plans months to develop their rates. If we don’t find a multi-year solution, we’re just going to be back in this room trying to patch the same problem a few months from now. And that’s simply not what certainty looks like.

This kind of discussion—around strengthening our health care system—is exactly what Democrats have hoped for over the last few years. 

We’ve put forward a number of ideas that would help stabilize markets and lower costs in the near term.

And as I’ve said before, as we work together I’m more than ready to consider additional ideas from the other side of the aisle to make our health care system work better for patients and families.

But to be clear, this means moving forward, not backward, on affordability, coverage, and quality of care.

Families have rejected the damaging approach taken in Trumpcare, which would have raised families' costs and gutted critical protections like those for pre-existing conditions. Congress should listen.

I think we’re all well aware threading this needle won’t be easy. But I do believe an agreement that protects patients and families from higher costs and uncertainty, and maintains the guardrails in our current health care system, is possible.

This kind of agreement would not only make a real difference for the patients and families we serve, but it could also provide a bipartisan foundation for future work.

I have said many times before the work didn’t end when the Affordable Care Act passed—and this is certainly still true today.

There is much more we need to do to strengthen the health care system—lower costs—expand coverage—and improve quality of care.

And these are all issues we should be able to work together on in a bipartisan way.

I hope with today’s conversation we can continue to turn the page away from Trumpcare and partisanship we’ve seen so much of, and instead, start working on health care policies to help patients and families afford the care they need—because that’s the goal we should all be focused on.

I’m so glad we’ve seen interest on both sides of the aisle for coming together and working to find common ground on these issues.

Thank you again to the commissioners and to all of our colleagues for joining us—and I’ll turn it back over to Chairman Alexander.