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On Eve of Final Senate Vote, Murray Speaks on Senate Floor Urging Passage of Health Insurance Reform Bill

Dec 23 2009

Murray tells stories of Washington state families and small business owners who desperately need reform

Listen to speech

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray gave a speech on the floor of the Senate urging her colleagues to support the health insurance reform bill. Murray told over a number of the stories sent to her by Washington state families that she has shared with her colleagues over the past few months that demonstrate the need for reform. In her speech, Senator Murray highlighted the specific benefits of the comprehensive Senate health insurance reform bill to Washington state families and small business owners.

Senator Murray retold the stories of Janet, from Seattle; Joseph from Port Orchard; Mark, from Port Townsend; Patricia, from Woodinville; and Marcelas Owens, a young man she met in Seattle whose mother lost her job, lost her insurance, and ultimately lost her life.

This speech came on the eve of tomorrow morning’s Senate vote for final passage of the bill

Key excerpts:

“Over the past few months I have tried to ensure the struggles of residents in my home state are represented in this debate. I told my colleagues the stories I have received in over 10,000 letters and e-mails—at roundtables and on the phone. Stories told to me too often by men and women with tears in their eyes, or a quiver in their voice-- people who are not looking for a handout or a free ride, but who are pleading for a fair system. A system that works for families or businesses like theirs.”

“Health insurance reform is going to come too late for Tifanny—but her story is why we need to reform the health insurance system. Real people. Real stories. Real needs. That is why we are here now, that is why we need to get this done.”

“I want to thank the more than 10,000 people in my home state of Washington who sent me their personal health care stories. Their input has helped guide me as I worked on this bill, and has served as a constant and welcome reminder about who I am here to represent. I urge my colleagues to stand with these families—and with the families and small business owners in their states and across the country who desperately need reform. Health insurance reform has been a long time coming, but today we stand closer than ever to making it a reality.”

The full text of the speech follows:

“Mr. President, the health insurance system in our country has been broken for a long time.   For far too long, families and businesses across my home state of Washington have been forced to make tough decisions --spending nights struggling – whispering after the kids go to bed – about how to pay the bills and praying they don’t get sick. 

“But Mr. President—I am proud to say that this is about to change.

“Over the course of months of work on this issue I have noticed that it is very easy for this debate to tip into the realm of abstractions.

“To focus on numbers or charts— to devolve into petty partisanship or ideological inflexibility. And too often, real people get left out of the conversation.

“Mothers and fathers who are scared that they will lose their job and that their families will lose their insurance.

“Those with preexisting conditions who can’t get coverage and who know they are just one hospital visit away from bankruptcy.

“Small business owners who can’t afford another premium increase and who want to cover their employees, but simply can’t keep up with rising costs.

“Senior citizens who are forced to cut their pills in half to last them twice as long.

“People who pay their premiums and like their doctors, but when they get sick find out that some of the most personal choices in their lives are being made by their insurance companies

“These are the real people who need health insurance reform.   And, Mr. President, most Americans seem to fall into one of those categories.

“Over the past few months I have tried to ensure the struggles of residents in my home state are represented in this debate.

“I told my colleagues the stories I have received in over 10,000 letters and e-mails—at roundtables and on the phone.

“Stories told to me too often by men and women with tears in their eyes, or a quiver in their voice-- people who are not looking for a handout or a free ride, but who are pleading for a fair system. A system that works for families or businesses like theirs.

“I shared the story of Janet from Seattle—who lost her job, lost her insurance—and succumbed to cancer after being forced to wait six weeks to see a specialist after her throat began to hurt. Janet’s story is why we need to reform the health insurance system.

“And I told my colleagues the story of Joseph and his wife—who was denied an MRI after complaining of a pain in her breast—and only after three years of fighting their insurance company were they able to determine she had breast cancer and begin the treatment she desperately needed.

“Their story is why we need to reform the health insurance system.

“I told the story of Mark Peters, from Port Townsend—who owns a small technology company and is being crushed by skyrocketing premiums.

“He offers health insurance to his employees. He does the right thing. But he told me that he just got a letter from his insurance company raising his rates by 25% 25%!

“Mark told me that his small business can’t sustain increases like that—no business could.

“But in our current health insurance system, small businesses are often at the mercy of the insurance companies.

“This company’s story is why we need to reform the health insurance system. And I told the story of Patricia Jackson, from Woodinville—who has private insurance but can’t keep up with the rising premiums.

“To provide care for her family of four, Patricia paid $840 a month in 2007.The next year, $900 a month. And then $1,186 a month. And just recently her rates were hiked to $1,400 a month.  An increase of over 66% in just 3 years!

“Patricia and her family’s story is why we need to reform the health insurance system.

“Mr. President, I told my colleagues the story of Marcelas Owens—a young man I have thought about every day since I met him back in June.

“Marcelas is just 10 years old, but he and his two younger siblings have already been through too much.

“Two years ago, their mother, Tifanny, lost her life because she was uninsured.  She was only 27 years old.

“Tifanny was a single mom who worked as an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant.  She had health care coverage through her job, but in September 2006, she got sick, lost her job, lost her insurance,  and ultimately lost her life. And Marcelas and his two siblings lost their mom.

“Health insurance reform is going to come too late for Tifanny—but her story is why we need to reform the health insurance system.

“Real people. Real stories. Real needs.

“That is why we are here now, that is why we need to get this done.

“When we pass this bill—American will be able to shop for coverage that meets their needs and, for the first time, insurance companies will have to compete for the business of the American people.

“When we pass this bill - We will end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and make it illegal to drop people when they get sick.

“When we pass this bill - We will give tax credits to small businesses and help the self-employed afford care.

“When we pass this bill – we will make preventative services free, end life-time coverage limits and cap out-of-pocket fees.  And we will extend the life of Medicare without cutting guaranteed benefits.  While shrinking the “doughnut-hole” gap in drug coverage for seniors.

“When we pass this bill, people like Mark , Patricia, Joseph, and his wife will be helped. And the memories of people like Janet and Tifanny will be honored.

“That is why need to reform the health insurance system.

“Mr. President, I want to thank the more than 10,000 people in my home state of Washington who sent me their personal health care stories.

“Their input has helped guide me as I worked on this bill, and has served as a constant and welcome reminder about who I am here to represent.

“I urge my colleagues to stand with these families—and with the families and small business owners in their states and across the country who desperately need reform.

“Health insurance reform has been a long time coming, but today we stand closer than ever to making it a reality.

“Thank you, and I yield the floor.”