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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate calling attention to the rapidly rising costs that health care consumers are facing and urging Congress to move quickly on health care reform. 

In her speech, Senator Murray told the story of Patricia Jackson from Woodinville, Washington, whose family premiums have increased by hundreds of dollars per month. 

Excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

“I understand that many Americans are satisfied with the level of care their insurance provides. These are the Americans who want to know what’s in it for them.  What will they get out of reform?”

“It’s not just the uninsured who are impacted by not being able to access preventative medicine or having to seek costly care in our E.R.s.These costs get passed on to those with insurance in the form of higher insurance premiums. It’s estimated that a family of four is paying an added one-thousand dollars in premiums a year to help pay for those with no coverage. Essentially, it’s a ‘hidden tax.’ This tax is hurting families who are insured and it’s hurting our businesses.  And it needs to end.”

“For those of our colleagues who ask how we can afford to pay for this, I’d like to tell them to ask Patricia Jackson – or any of their constituents.  Because the real question is how can we afford not to.”

This story was among over 5,000 stories that have been sent to Senator Murray through her new website murray.senate.gov/healthcarereform.

Senator Murray’s full speech follows:

“Mr. President, if you look at the front cover of newspapers across the country this week, or watch cable news each day, it’s clear that the rhetoric on health care reform is heating up.

“Whether it’s threats from the other side of the aisle to “break” a President who has made health care reform a priority, million dollar ad buys from interest groups, or political pundits, health care rhetoric is reaching fever pitch.

“In fact, the discourse in Washington D.C. has gotten so loud that the voice of American families is being drowned out.

“These days, those who need reform most are the ones being heard from least.

“That’s why, three weeks ago, I sent an e-mail to many of my constituents asking them to share with me their personal stories of dealing with our health care system and their ideas for reform.

“To date, over 5,000 e-mails have flooded my office with deeply personal and painful stories from every corner of my state.

“Yesterday, I came to the floor to share two of those stories.

“They were stories of women who had lost their insurance and, due to an inability to get care when they needed it, lost their lives.

“Many of the letters I have received – like those I spoke of yesterday - tug at the heart strings.

“But today, I want to talk about what so many Americans are concerned about right now – their purse strings.

“Mr. President, I understand that many Americans are satisfied with the level of care their insurance provides.

“These are the Americans who can get in to see a doctor when they need one and receive good, quality care. 

“These are the Americans who want to know what’s in it for them.  What will they get out of reform?  And – with all of our other problems - why should we pay for it right now?

“These are good questions to which the American people deserve good answers.

“Mr. President, it’s not just the uninsured who are impacted by not being able to access preventative medicine or having to seek costly care in our E.R.s.

“These costs get passed on to those with insurance in the form of higher insurance premiums. 

“It’s estimated that a family of four is paying an added one-thousand dollars in premiums a year to help pay for those with no coverage.

“Essentially, it’s a “hidden tax.”

“This tax is hurting families who are insured and it’s hurting our businesses.  And it needs to end.

“Health care reform will do that.  By creating a competitive pool of insurance options – including a public option – we can bring down costs and premiums in the long-run.

“We will be moving to a system that rewards innovation and healthy outcomes, and because Americans will have a choice of insurance plans, insurance providers will be forced to lower costs to be competitive.

“The existence of a pool of insurers to choose from also means that if you lose your job, you don’t lose your insurance.

“If you want to change jobs – or even start your own business – there is a health care option for you.

“And we make it easier for small businesses to provide coverage for employees by helping them pay for up to half the cost of health insurance for businesses with 50 or fewer workers.

“We also prohibit insurance companies from charging high premiums for women and the elderly and end the practice of denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

“And for the first time – we put a priority on prevention and wellness.  Investing in community based programs to improve nutrition, prevent smoking and increase fitness will save nearly $16 billion a year within five years.

“So, health care reform will make health care coverage more affordable, portable, and undeniable.

“Mr. President, let me give you a real life example of someone who has health insurance, but would benefit greatly from health care reform.

“Mr. President, one of the letters I recently received is from Patricia Jackson of Woodinville, Washington.   I suspect Patricia’s story will sound familiar to many Americans. 

“Patricia and her family have private insurance that is paid for each month through premiums that come directly out of Patricia’s paycheck.

“But as is the case with many middle class families, the burden of those premium payments is rapidly rising.

“To provide care for her family of four, Patricia paid $840 dollars a month in 2007.

“Then, last year, her payments jumped to $900 a month.

“Today, Patricia pays $1,186 in premiums just to provide care for her family each month.

“Unfortunately, for too many families, Patricia’s story isn’t the exception, it’s the rule.

“Health insurance premiums for working families in Washington state have skyrocketed in recent years.

“In fact, according to a study by Families USA, from 2000 to 2007 premiums increased by 86.6%

“Let me say that again – over an eight year period, premiums in Washington state increased by 86.6 percent.

“But over that same period of time, wages grew by a mere 16 percent.

“Health insurance premiums rose over 5 times faster than median earnings – and the problem isn’t just going to go away.

“For middle class families who are struggling to make mortgage payments or send their kids to college - this is a situation they can’t afford. 

“But without meaningful health care reform it’s also a trend that will continue indefinitely. 

“And Mr. President this reform can’t come a moment too soon.

“Just two weeks ago – Patricia’s insurance company – the largest private insurance company in my home state - announced another dramatic increase in premiums.

“Starting on August 1st – just two weeks from now – this company will raise premiums for 135,000 enrollees by 17 percent.

“Seventeen percent.

“A front page article in the Seattle Times the day after the hike was announced, quoted Gail Petersen of North Seattle who said the news means her premiums will rise by $300.

“She said she would – quote- “love to see insurance companies have a little competition."

“Mr. President, so would Patricia Jackson.

“In fact, Patricia recently contacted my office to let me know that starting on August 1st her new premiums will cost her over $1,400 a month.

“That’s not just unaffordable, it’s unsustainable for Patricia, America’s families, America’s businesses and America’s future economic strength.

“Mr. President, health care reform isn’t just for the uninsured, it’s for people like Patricia and Gail and the millions of others who have health insurance right now – who have played by the rules, but whose paychecks and futures are being gouged by a system that lacks accountability, competition or reason.

“Unfortunately, some of our friends on the other side want to prevent meaningful, comprehensive reform from moving forward.

“Just as unfortunate, are their motives.

“Mr. President, one member of the Senate who wants to protect the status quo said, ‘If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.’

“Mr. President, this type of posturing is playing games with real lives in order to score cheap political points.

“Blocking health care reform won’t break the President.  But it will break American families.  It will break American businesses.  It will break the bank.

“America deserves better.

“Mr. President, Congress knows that most Americans like their doctors, their providers and their coverage.

“On the days they need to see a doctor, they are glad they can provide their families with coverage for booster shots, check-ups, preventative and even emergency care.

“But, on payday, it’s a different story.

“So, Mr. President, for those of our colleagues who ask how we can afford to pay for this, I’d like to tell them to ask Patricia Jackson – or any of their constituents.  Because the real question is how can we afford not to.

“Especially at a time when the economy is struggling and the costs of care are rising we need to do everything we can to reign in those costs and prevent more people from losing coverage and having to seek more expensive care in our E.R.s

“Mr. President, the time is right and the time is now.  Patricia, her family, and the millions of hard-working, tax-paying Americans across the country, simply can’t wait any longer.

“Thank you, Mr. President, I yield the floor.