News Releases

Senator Murray Asks HHS Secretary Thompson Why Bush Administration is Raiding Funding for Community Health Care Program

Jul 15 2004

Murray, who saved the Community Access Program from elimination last year, calls on Administration to release $20 million it raided from successful health care program

Update: Murray Again Urges HHS Secretary to Save Washington Health Care Programs (8/6/04)

"This program has helped nearly 300,000 working uninsured families get access to health care. Last year the Bush Administration tried to kill it. This year they've raided its funding. Why is the White House making it harder for our communities to meet the healthcare needs of uninsured Americans?", Murray asks.

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) continued her efforts to expand the Health Community Access Program (CAP) by vigorously questioning Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson in a hearing on Capitol Hill. In a hearing before the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Murray, a long-time advocate for the program, challenged the Administration's decision to take $20 million from the program and instead target it to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

In 2003, Murray was successful in attaching funding to the FY2003 Omnibus Appropriations bill, one of only a handful of Democratic amendments agreed to on the legislation.

"The $20 million stolen from the HCAP program will jeopardize the ability of programs in Washington state to meet the needs of the uninsured," Murray said. "We can't rob Peter to pay Paul when it comes to combating disease and helping the uninsured. It's time for the Administration to step up to the plate and become a real partner in the effort to treat the growing number of uninsured Americans."

In the face of Administration efforts to zero-out funding for the program, Murray has worked for years to secure CAP funding. At the hearing, Murray said that the cut kept the CAP program from expanding and that it should be the objective of Congress and the Administration to grow this extremely successful, bipartisan program, not shrink it.

The Community Access Program provides funds for community efforts to identify local challenges and develop solutions. More than 22 Washington counties are using this flexible, bottoms-up approach to meet local needs. This year, the state of Washington received a $1.3 million planning and research grant from the federal government, thanks to the efforts of Senator Murray.

While Murray attested personally to the effectiveness of CAP in providing health care to people in Washington state who are uninsured, Thompson stated repeatedly that CAP has not been effective and that other programs are more useful. This prompted Senator Murray to invite Secretary Thompson to Washington state to see firsthand just how much of a difference CAP is making in Americans' lives.

"I'd be more than happy to come out and spend a day with you, Senator Murray, and watch your programs. I'd love that," Thompson said.

"We're going to be fighting for the funding here, and I'll take you up on that," Murray said.

Before questioning Thompson today, Murray said:

We know there are a number of steps we can take to improve our lifestyles and to prevent chronic disease. Access to health care, especially prevention-based care, good prenatal care, immunizations, and early screening and diagnosis of disease are also important in reducing the burden of chronic disease.

Yet, 44 million uninsured Americans lack access to comprehensive health care. Programs that work to coordinate care for the uninsured or provide screening for the uninsured – especially children and seniors – are essential in our efforts to reduce chronic disease.

However, you recently raided $20 million from the Health Community Access Program that seeks to coordinate access to care for the uninsured, despite the clear bipartisan support in Congress for this program.

The $20 million taken from a program that has already been reduced was targeted to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

I have been a longtime supporter of ADAP and have been proud to work with Senators Specter and Harkin in providing increased resources for this program, despite the Administration's efforts to level-fund the program.

Where was the Administration's request for an additional $20 million when we were enacting the FY2004 Omnibus Appropriations Act?

Many states have had waiting periods and limitations on coverage for the past two to three years. The $20 million stolen from the HCAP program will jeopardize programs in Washington State to meet the needs of the uninsured.

How can we ensure that our children can live healthy lives free of chronic disease when they are denied access to prevention-based care?

And how can the Administration talk about healthy lifestyles and yet propose eliminating a program aimed at providing care to those most in need?