News Releases

Murray Urges President to Stop Blocking Kids' Health Care

Oct 31 2007

Murray: Senate Supporters of CHIP Agreed to Compromise, President Should Too

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), today spoke out in favor of a compromise bill that will strengthen and expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  The new bill addresses concerns raised by the President and some Republicans in Congress, while still insuring almost 4 million children who wouldn’t otherwise get health care.

In her speech, Murray reminded the President and her colleagues that it has been three months since the Senate first approved CHIP, and that the parents of millions of children are still waiting to hear about whether they will continue to get help paying medical bills.  She cited a New York Times article, which reported that unless Congress acts, 21 states will run out of money for the program next year.

“I am frustrated and angry that I’m standing here again, talking about CHIP, and that we’re still trying to get the White House to understand.  The supporters of this bill have agreed to compromise.  We want to make this program work.  And we’re back with another bill we think will meet everyone’s needs," Senator Murray said in her speech.  "Children’s health shouldn’t be about politics.  I’ve said this over and over.  It’s about making sure kids can see a doctor.  These kids aren’t Democrats or Republicans.  They’re just kids who deserve health care."

The Senate is currently expected to vote on the new CHIP bill as early as tomorrow.

The full text of Senator Murray's floor remarks on CHIP follows:

Mr. President, back in August, I stood here on the Senate floor and shared the story of a little girl from my home state. 

I did that because I wanted to illustrate why it’s our moral obligation as Americans to renew and improve the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

Shortly afterward, we approved the CHIP bill by an overwhelming margin because Senators on both sides of the aisle agreed that all children should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick.  They supported re-authorizing CHIP because it would reduce the number of uninsured American children by a third.

But President Bush vetoed it. 

Mr. President, it’s three months later, and I am frustrated and angry that I’m standing here again, talking about CHIP, and that we’re still trying to get the White House to understand.

The supporters of this bill have agreed to compromise.  We want to make this program work.  And we’re back with another bill we think will meet everyone’s needs. 

So today I want to remind President Bush – and anyone else who still questions how important it is to approve this program now – about that little girl from Yakima, Washington.  Because it’s time for the President to stop blocking her health care.

Sydney’s Story

The little girl I want to tell you about is Sydney, and she’s 9 years old.  

In many ways, Sydney is like any other happy child.  She loves to sing and dance.  She does well in school.  And she has lots of friends.

But Sydney also has a life-shortening genetic condition called Cystic Fibrosis.  It requires her to take a “bucket-full” of medicine every day.  And she’s already spent weeks of her young life in the hospital hooked up to an I.V. of antibiotics, which help her live to enjoy another day.

All of this is possible because of the health care she receives as part of the CHIP program.

Her mom, Sandi DeBord, told me about Sydney because she was frightened that CHIP might no longer be available for her daughter.

She wrote:

“I know for a fact that without this bit of assistance, her life would end much sooner due to the inability to afford quality health care for her.”

Mr. President, I’m telling this story again because I’m sad to say that three months later, I can’t assure Sydney’s mom that CHIP will always be there.

The News is Growing More Dire

In fact, the news has become even more worrisome.  Just today, the New York Times reported that because of the President’s refusal to work with Congress on this bill, several states are planning to start dropping children from the program in order to save money.

Unless something changes, California says it will begin dropping 64,000 kids a month starting in January.  A study from the Congressional Research Service found that nine states Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island will run out of money by March. 

Twelve more states will run out between April and September.

Mr. President this is a tragedy, and it’s our moral obligation to correct it.  We’re trying to do that today.

Vetoing the CHIP Bill Denied Insurance for 4 Million Children

Mr. President, as Sydney’s story shows, the need for the Children’s Health Insurance Program is clear.  It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or Democrat, progressive or conservative, making sure our children get health care is the right thing to do.

When a child gets a cut that requires stitches, comes down with a fever, or an ear-ache, or with any other imaginable problem, they should be able to get help.  Period.

Unfortunately, today – even in America – this isn’t the case.  Millions of children don’t get the medicine they need.  And the ranks of uninsured children are growing, because – as the cost of living rises – while wages remain stagnant – more and more parents are struggling to afford health care.

Mr. President most of us in the Senate know this.  The CHIP program has had strong Republican support.  I particularly want to thank Senator Grassley and Senator Hatch, who co-sponsored the original 1997 bill.  They worked hard with Senators Baucus and Rockefeller.

We Have Worked on a Compromise

Even so, President Bush has complained about the bill we passed.  As an excuse to delay this program, he – and a few Republican supporters – say we have been unwilling to work with them.  They say it will increase costs.

Well, Mr. President, that’s not the case.  Despite what the President says, we listened to their concerns and have already revised the bill.

The new bill we are considering:

  • Addresses concerns that children of illegal immigrants will be covered by requiring that states not only verify names and Social Security numbers, but also check citizenship information in the Social Security Administration’s database.
  •  It ends coverage of child-less adults by the end of one year.
  •  And it concentrates on making sure the poorest kids get covered first.

 The bill also helps bridge the gap for another 3.9 million children whose parents can’t afford health insurance.

And the program is paid for. 

I want to underscore this point.  President Bush has just asked us to borrow $196 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for this year alone.  But he opposes CHIP even though we have found a way to PAY for the cost of kids’ health care over five years.

The $35 billion cost for CHIP’s initiatives comes solely from a 61-cent excise tax increase on cigarettes and other tobacco products. 

No other programs are cut.  Social Security isn’t raided.  The deficit won’t be increased. 

And not only will this provide millions of children with health care – experts estimate that it will get 1.7 million adults to quit smoking, and prevent millions of kids from ever getting hooked.

So this is good for kids’ health now – and it will help make millions of kids healthier in the future, too.

It’s About the Kids

Children’s health shouldn’t be about politics.  I’ve said this over and over.  It’s about making sure kids can see a doctor. 

These kids aren’t Democrats or Republicans.  They’re just kids who deserve health care. 

Unfortunately, President Bush has let health care for our children get caught up in a desperate attempt to appeal to his dwindling number of supporters.

Mr. President, we know CHIP is the right thing to do.  Americans know it’s the right thing to do – more than 65 percent oppose President Bush’s veto.

So to President Bush – and any of my colleagues out there who still see this as a debate over politics and numbers – I want to remind you once more of 9-year-old Sydney and the millions of kids out there who depend on this program.

Sydney is still fighting Cystic Fibrosis.  And her mother still needs to know whether CHIP will be there to help pay for her care.

I hope to be able to tell her that it will.

On behalf of Sydney, the 73,000 uninsured children in Washington state, and the more than 8 million uninsured children nationally

I thank my colleagues for their continued support for this bill.  And I urge the President to stop blocking this vital program.

Thank you.