News Releases

Murray Offers Amendment to Help the Uninsured Get Healthcare

Jan 22 2003

Murray's Amendment Would Continue funding for Community Access Program

Video of Sen. Murray's Remarks

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today offered an amendment to improve access to healthcare for the uninsured.

Murray's amendment to the Omnibus Spending bill would restore $120 million for the Community Access Program (CAP). CAP is a community-based effort that helps provide healthcare for the uninsured. It has received broad bipartisan support.

Currently, four Washington state communities are using CAP funding to break down the barriers to healthcare for the uninsured. Today, CAP efforts are making a difference in Spokane, Wenatchee, Olympia, and Seattle.

The full Senate will vote on Murray's amendment tomorrow, January 23, 2003.

In offering her amendment, Senator Murray made the following remarks on the Senate floor:

Mr. President, I am offering this important amendment on behalf of myself and Senators Kennedy, Reed, Clinton, Bingaman, Dodd, Stabenow, and Cantwell.

Mr. President my amendment is very simple. It restores the $120 million to the Community Access Program that was cut in the manager's amendment. This $120 million level is exactly the same level we appropriated in FY2002, and it's the same level included in the FY2003 Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations bill, which we marked up last year.

The Community Access Program helps increase the capacity and effectiveness of community health care institutions and providers who serve patients regardless of their ability to pay. It is a community-based program that seeks to coordinate care for the uninsured. It has been very successful, and it enjoys broad bipartisan support.

Mr. President, it's difficult to understand why the President's budget eliminates a program that seeks to get care for the uninsured at a time when the ranks of the uninsured continue to grow. Without a coordinated, community-based approach to accessing care, the uninsured simply end up in the Emergency Room or go without care. Both results add to our growing health care crisis.

I know first hand how successful this program has been. Washington state has four CAP grantees that have worked to expand access to quality, comprehensive care for those who have no health care safety net. They're based in Spokane, Wenatchee, Olympia, and Seattle. As I've met with our CAP grantees, they've shown me a glimpse into the future of healthcare.

For example, in October I visited the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic. I saw a doctor, a dentist, and a psychologist all in the same room – not just treating individual body parts – but treating the whole child in a comprehensive, compassionate way. Today that project – known as "Kids Get Care" – is connecting more than 3,000 children to comprehensive healthcare. These efforts are making a real difference for low-income families, and they need more investment.

Our CAP grantees have worked to ensure that our increased investment in Community Health Centers reaps the greatest benefit possible. They have worked with vulnerable populations to tear down all barriers to care -- and not just economic barriers. They have used this small investment to better serve the uninsured. We should be strengthening efforts like this -- not eliminating them.

Currently, one in nine Washington residents are uninsured. With my state's ongoing economic crisis, demand will grow for programs that provide care for the uninsured. We need to meet the immediate needs of families who today can only access care in the Emergency Room.

CAP provides the seed money that gives community healthcare providers the ability to serve those who have nowhere else to go.

Mr. President, as a member of the Senate HELP Committee, I am disappointed that the Majority has proposed eliminating this program.

The HELP Committee -- working in a bipartisan manner under the leadership of Chairman Kennedy and Senators Gregg and Frist -- secured passage of a four-year Health Care Safety Net Authorization bill. That bill provided an authorization for the CAP program. This legislation was unanimously adopted by the Senate in October 2002 and signed by the President on October 26, 2002.

The purpose of this authorization is spelled out in Public Law 107-251. Let me read from the committee report. The purpose is, "to provide assistance to communities and to consortia of health care providers, in order to develop or strengthen an integrated health care delivery system that coordinates health services for individuals who are uninsured and individuals who are underinsured and to develop or strengthen activities related to providing coordinated care for individuals with chronic conditions."

Mr. President, these are goals we must achieve. I understand the fiscal pressures facing the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee and Chairman Specter, but we are facing a major health care crisis in this country. This is not just a crisis of the uninsured, but a crisis of increasing costs. The impact of this will only mean higher federal expenditures in programs like Medicare and Medicaid -- not to mention the human toll on our uninsured citizens.

Mr. President, I applaud the recent comments by the new Majority Leader in discussing the racial inequities in our health care delivery system. I look forward to working with him to address this injustice and ensure greater access to care for all Americans. Fair and just access to care is a civil rights issue. Being uninsured does not have to mean going without. We can offer a safety net to provide comprehensive care to the uninsured through programs like CAP and Community Health Centers.

CAP provides a model for closing the gaps in health care and eliminating racial inequities. If we truly hope to provide fair and equal access, we must not eliminate CAP. CAP is certainly not the only solution. But, we all know that in order to address our health care crisis we must find innovative solutions that use resources more efficiently. CAP does just that. It supports innovative, community-based programs. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment. We need to strengthen our fragile health care safety net as the ranks of the uninsured continue to grow.