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(Washington, D.C.) – Last night, U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke on floor of the Senate to highlight the immediate benefits to Washington state families and small business owners of the health insurance reform bill that President Obama signed into law today.

Murray told the story of Joseph Labrum, from Port Orchard, Washington, who shared his story with her that demonstrates the need for better preventive care.  Murray also told the story of Mark Peters, a small business owner from Port Townsend, Washington who will benefit immediately from the law that was signed yesterday.

More information on immediate benefits for Washington state families and small business owners.

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Mr. President, throughout this debate I have shared the stories of families and small business owners from my home state of Washington who were suffering in our broken health care system.

“I talked about Washington state small business owners from  Kitsap and Kennewick. Good people who wanted to cover their employees, but who couldn’t continue to afford the skyrocketing premiums.

“I spoke about mothers and fathers in Seattle and Spokane.

“Grandmothers and grandfather east of the Cascades and west.

“Men and women from every part of the state—some barely holding on to their health insurance, and some with no coverage at all.

“I told the stories of so many people from so many different backgrounds—but each one sharing a common thread: The health care system didn’t work for them. It failed our families one way or another—over and over again.

“I’ve received well over 10,000 letters from Washington state residents. And too many of them share this theme.

“Stories of coverage dropped when it is needed most. Premiums going up at rates of 20, 30, or 40 percent. Seniors struggling after falling into the donut hole.

“Terrible stories. Stories of loved ones who were lost. Of children and parents. Brothers and sisters. Stories about what they had to go through before they passed away.

“Battling insurance companies. Losing their coverage. Fighting for care. Never giving up, but fighting against powers too great for them to bear.

“Mr. President, this is why I have fought so hard to reform our broken health insurance system.

“To fight for families who need help. To level the playing field for people who need a little support.

“For families with real struggles and real problems that we can work together to help solve.

“And that’s why I am so proud to stand here today and say to those families and so many others that although we have not fixed everything that is wrong with our health care system overnight—we have taken a real step forward for people across my home state of Washington and across America.  

“Today, when President Obama signed health insurance into law a number of significant improvements kicked in. And some of the worst practices of the insurance companies were tossed into the dustbin of history.

“Great changes went into effect immediately. For families, small business owners, children and seniors in Washington state and across the country.

“Now that this bill is signed into law---if you ever worried about losing your coverage when you or a family member got sick—you don’t have to worry any more—it’s now no longer allowed.

“Now that this bill is signed into law---no family ever has to worry about the unreasonable and unfair lifetime caps on coverage that we have seen from insurance companies in the past.

“And now that this bill is signed into law, never again will families have to fight for the preventive services they have paid for, and they deserve.

“Families like the Labrums, from Port Orchard, Washington.

“Joseph Labrum sent me a letter about his wife, who went to her doctor complaining of a pain in her breast.

“A mammogram failed to show anything wrong—but she was not convinced.

“She knew something wasn’t right—and she knew there was a history of breast cancer in her family.

“So she asked for an MRI—but her doctor said her insurance company wouldn’t pay for it—and she couldn’t afford to pay for it on her own.

“After three years of fighting with her insurance company—three years of pain and uncertainty- she was finally able to convince them to cover the test.

“Mr.President- by that time the cancer had grown to 8 centimeters, and required a full mastectomy, chemotherapy, and eight weeks of radiation.

“Joseph is convinced that if his wife’s care had been up to her doctor, and not her insurance company, she would have been cured with a minor lumpectomy—and wouldn’t have had to go through so much pain and suffering.

“The bill President Obama signed into law today makes sure that starting today, insurance companies will be required to cover preventive services with little or no cost sharing on the part of Washington state patients,.

“Starting today, Washington state families will have access to new, streamlined assistance to help them appeal services that have been denied or not covered adequately by insurance companies.

“This will help anyone who has ever felt buried under a blizzard of forms and denials—and it will start helping families right away.

“And Mr. President, if you are a small business owners—starting today the health insurance market will begin working better for you.  

“Starting today, people like Mark Peters, the owner of a small technology company in Port Townsend, Washington will be able to better afford care for his employees.  

“Months ago, Mark wrote to tell me that he offers health insurance to his employees.

“He does the right thing. But last year got a letter from his insurance company raising his rates by 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.

“They lack the leverage and negotiating power of larger firms, and they can’t afford to hire a human resources department to spend days haggling and fighting for better rates.

“But those days are coming to an end.   

“Starting today, thanks to the bill President Obama signed, small business owners like Mark will immediately qualify for the first phase of a tax credit program to help them purchase insurance for their families and their employees.

“The credit that will kick in immediately is up to 35% of the employer’s contribution to coverage— which would make such a big difference for almost 100,000 small business owners in Washington state, right away.

“And Mr.President—starting today, if you are a young person or a senior citizen—you will also be helped immediately.

“Over 159,000 Washington state seniors who fall into the “donut hole” will have their brand name prescription drug costs cut in half—right away.

“The law that passed begins to close this destructive coverage gap. And the bill we are considering today finishes the job and closes the donut hole once and for all.

“And, starting today, insurance companies will be required to permit young people to stay on family policies until age 26—which is especially important now when so many young people are having trouble finding that first job.

“Again, real help for real people—right away. That’s why I supported this law. And that’s why I fought so hard for it.

“Because Mr. President, we have been talking about reforming the health insurance system for a long time.

“Many leaders in our country have tried to fix this broken system—and each of them has failed.

“But today, thanks to the bill President Obama signed, we begin the move toward real reform.

“Reform that will help families like the Labrums. Small business owners like Mark Peters. And seniors and young people in Washington state and across the country.

“Reform will help people immediately, starting today, and that will move our families one step closer to lower premiums, more choices, and—at long last—the  health care security and stability they deserve.

“Mr. President, starting today, things are looking brighter for millions of Americans who have waited far too long for the help they need and deserve.

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