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Murray Continues to Push for Health Insurance Reform in Speech on Senate Floor

Dec 22 2009

Tells story of Washington state woman's struggles under the current system, calls on colleagues to end the obstruction and pass health insurance reform

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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke on the floor of the Senate to highlight the benefits of the comprehensive Senate health insurance reform bill to Washington state families and small business owners. Murray told the story of Katerina, from Redmond to demonstrate to her colleagues the urgent need for health insurance reform that will bring families stable, affordable health insurance coverage.

Senator Murray explained specifically how this bill will help Katerina and those like her, and called on her colleagues in the Senate to end the obstructions and delays, and work together to pass health insurance reform.

Katerina’s story was one of more than 10,000 stories that Senator Murray received through her website from Washington state residents. Murray has used these stories to demonstrate to her colleagues the urgent need for health insurance reform. Last week she told her colleagues the story Doreen, from Spokane  told her about her family’s trouble accessing care, and urged her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come together to help reform the broken health care system.

Key excerpts:

“I want to be clear with my colleagues and Americans across the country watching today:  This bill is about helping you, your loved ones, and people just like you across the country by bringing down your premiums, expanding your options, and increasing your stability.”

“It is about helping our economy and creating jobs by reducing the drag created by skyrocketing premiums and unlocking the potential for new health care careers.”

“It is about supporting the doctors, nurses, hospitals, and clinics who work every day to take care of you.”

“It is about helping you, or your father, mother, grandfather, or grandmother- by increasing benefits, cutting waste, and strengthening the Medicare you depend on.

“And it is about Katerina, a woman from Redmond, Washington—one of the more than 10,000 constituents from my home state who have sent me stories about their experiences with our broken health care system.”

“No longer will losing your job mean losing access to affordable coverage—and no longer will people like Katerina have to choose between food, clothing, and health care for herself and her child.”

 “Our plan will increase options, enhance security and stability—and it will reduce costs for people like Katerina by providing credits and premium assistance. So families will no longer have to worry about their coverage if they lose jobs, switch jobs, move or get sick.”

“That’s what this plan is about. It is about Katerina.  It is about her child. And it is about the millions of Americans in similar situations.”

“If the status quo wins out—things will only get worse. If some of my colleagues continue to play politics with this issue—Katerina will continue to struggle.  And if they maintain their tactics of delay, distraction, and obstruction—families will pay more for less, lose their coverage, be denied treatments, and continue to have to fight through insurance company red-tape to get the care they deserve.”

The full text of the speech follows:

“Mr. President, as this debate moves forward, it has become apparent that many of my colleagues are losing sight of what we are working toward here.

“What should be a robust debate about a critical issue facing families and businesses is being bogged down by distractions, political gimmicks, obstructions, and delays.

“While American families watch, and wait, and wonder where exactly they fit in this conversation.

“So I want to be clear with my colleagues and Americans across the country watching today:  This bill is about helping you, your loved ones, and people just like you across the country by bringing down your premiums, expanding your options, and increasing your stability.

“It is about helping our economy and creating jobs by reducing the drag created by skyrocketing premiums and unlocking the potential for new health care careers.

“It is about supporting the doctors, nurses, hospitals, and clinics who work every day to take care of you.

“It is about helping you, or your father, mother, grandfather, or grandmother- by increasing benefits, cutting waste, and strengthening the Medicare you depend on.

“And it is about Katerina, a woman from Redmond, Washington—one of the more than 10,000 constituents from my home state who have sent me stories about their experiences with our broken health care system.

“Mr. President—Katerina is a single mom- who has a good education, and had a good job and a solid middle-class lifestyle.

“But like so many Americans struggling in the toughest economy since the Great Depression—she was laid off from work and lost her employer-provided health insurance.

“She was able to scrape together enough money to pay for COBRA coverage—but Katerina told me she didn’t dare go to the doctor because she knew she wouldn’t be able to afford the co-pays.

“So she may technically be covered right now, but in practice neither she nor her child has access to true health care or preventive services.
And she found that living this way has some real consequences.

“Last month Katerina got an eye infection and had to go to the doctor for treatment.

“After all of the out-of-pocket costs, and still with no income—she told me she had to make some serious and tough choices in her family’s food and clothing budget. And who knows what would happen if Katerina or her child got seriously ill.

“Mr. President, our broken health insurance system is failing Katerina—and she is not alone.

“Millions of jobs have been lost in this current recession—and millions of families have been tossed out of their employer’s plans.

“Families who had health care, who felt secure—all of the sudden understand how broken the system really is, and how few options they actually have for affordable care.

“That is why we need health insurance reform—why we need this plan.

“For Katerina, the millions of Americans in similar situations, and the hundreds of millions of Americans who may switch jobs, move, start small businesses, or who just want more options for high quality affordable care.

“Mr. President, here’s how this bill will specifically help Katerina – and others.

“Our plan sets up a market where people can shop for and purchase insurance—where insurance companies would have to compete for families’ business and where people like Katerina would be able to choose a plan that fits her family best from among a range of choices in an open marketplace.

“It would inject competition into the insurance market, lower costs, and give families like Katerina’s more choices.

“This means that instead of having just one choice when she was laid off—to purchase high-priced COBRA or not—Katerina will be able to compare the price and performance of plans and make a decision for her family with the benefit of true options.

“This will increase her stability, and it helps keep insurance companies accountable.
And never again will insurance companies be allowed to drop a family’s plan simply for getting sick.

“No longer will losing your job mean losing access to affordable coverage—and no longer will people like Katerina have to choose between food, clothing, and health care for herself and her child.

“It will also keep families secure by ensuring that all insurance plans offer an adequate level of coverage—including free preventive care that will keep them healthy and ensure that minor, inexpensive medical issues can be treated before they become major, expensive medical problems.

“Our plan will increase options, enhance security and stability—and it will reduce costs for people like Katerina by providing credits and premium assistance. So families will no longer have to worry about their coverage if they lose jobs, switch jobs, move or get sick.

“Mr. President—that’s what this plan is about. It is about Katerina.  It is about her child. And it is about the millions of Americans in similar situations.

“Mr. President, if the status quo wins out—things will only get worse.

“If some of my colleagues continue to play politics with this issue—Katerina will continue to struggle.  And if they maintain their tactics of delay, distraction, and obstruction—families will pay more for less, lose their coverage, be denied treatments, and continue to have to fight through insurance company red-tape to get the care they deserve.

“So, Mr. President, once again- that’s what this is about.

“I will continue to stand up to tell the stories of families and small business owners from my home state of Washington—because they are counting on us to fix this broken health care system.  And I urge my colleagues to focus on their state’s families, and join with us to pass true health insurance reform.

“Before I yield, Mr. President, I wanted to take this opportunity to make one additional point. 
As everyone knows, we’ve been working an incredibly demanding schedule in recent weeks.  Senators have seen this floor at every conceivable hour – late at night, early in the morning, in the face of a blizzard. 

“But far too frequently, we forget that every time we are here, there are literally hundreds of staff forced to be here along with us.  In fact, they are often here long before we arrive and long after we leave.

“This body could not function without the tireless dedication of these men and women.  Many are here now the clerks and parliamentarians, cloakroom staff and doorkeepers,  Capitol Police officers and maintenance workers. 

“They work long hours, nights, mornings, weekends – with no regard to a government closure, dangerous snowstorm, or need to complete their holiday shopping.  If we’re here, they’re here. 

“Every one of them deserves our thanks, and I wanted to take this moment to express my own gratitude to all of them, to my own staff as well.

“This has not been an easy time, but all of you should know that we are deeply appreciative of your service.   And I, for one, am strongly supportive of bringing this debate to a swift conclusion, so that each of you can be home with your families, enjoying some well deserved time off over the holidays. 

“Thank you.  And I yield the floor.”