Sen. Patty Murray urges Republican leaders to reauthorize Children’s Health Insurance Program funding

Full text of Senator Murray’s floor speech, as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, M. President.

I come to the floor today to talk more about what my bipartisan health care bill with Chairman Alexander means for the people we are all here to serve.

What it means for patients and families—in my home state of Washington and across the country—who are worried about being able to afford the care they need.

And what it means for states and communities and hospitals—administering and providing care.

You know, negotiations of this magnitude are always tough.

There are some things you agree on—sometimes there is common ground that emerges early.

But there’s no question—you also find areas of strong disagreement.

And so you have to work your way to each answer—step by step.

Now—one issue Chairman Alexander and I agreed on from the very start of our negotiations—where we worked our hardest—and what we had the most discussions on…

…was the goal of putting patients and families first…

…and that it would be families who would benefit as much as possible from our efforts to restore stability to our markets.

That was the crux of our debate.

It was our guiding star.

And I’m very proud to say our bipartisan bill does just that.

Because here’s what’s at stake, M. President.

Here’s what we know.

Patients and families across the country are looking ahead to next year…

…they are rightly worried about their health care—premiums, benefits, coverage…

…and they are realizing they are about to pay the price for the uncertainty and partisanship we’ve seen on health care over the last nine months.

Like all my colleagues, I’ve listened and talked with many of these families in my home state.

At hospitals, schools, roundtables…

…in meetings with patients, doctors, providers, veterans…

…and they all have made it very clear:

Enough is enough with playing politics with people’s health care.

Now—M. President—here’s how our bipartisan bill would protect these families and restore some certainty to our markets.

I won’t go into all the details, of course, but I do want to focus on a few quick points.

First of all—this bill would restore the out-of-pocket cost reduction payments that President Trump has announced he’d be ending—for this year as well as 2018 and 2019.

This means that some serious sabotage—something that experts say would raise premiums by double digits for millions of families—would be off the table.

Second—this bill would make significant investments when it comes to health care outreach and enrollment to make sure families know about their insurance options.

And third—this bill makes some changes to give states more flexibility when it comes to developing plans and offering options, while maintaining essential health benefits like maternity care, and protecting people with pre-existing conditions and the elderly.

And all this—while also making sure that costs go down for families and preventing insurers from ‘double dipping’ and padding their profits with both cost reduction payments and higher premiums.

Put simply, this bill is an important step in the right direction to prevent premium increases, stabilize health care, and push back against President Trump’s recent actions.

This bill reflects the input of patients, governors, state commissioners, experts, and advocates.

And it has strong support from a majority of the Senate.

So far, 24 Senators—12 Democrats and 12 Republicans—have co-sponsored this bill.

And I know there are many others—who agree we need to act—and that we must do so working together, under regular order—like our bill—rather than doubling down on partisanship and dysfunction.

So—M. President—I am focused on moving our bill forward as quickly as possible.

And I certainly hope the Majority Leader will listen to the members—on both sides of the aisle—who also want this bill to be brought up for a vote without further delay.

Now let me be clear:

As this bill moves forward, I’m certainly open to changes that expand access to quality care, put families ahead of insurers, and maintain the core patient protections that I’ve been clear all along must be preserved.

But I’m certainly not interested in changing our bipartisan agreement to move health care in the wrong direction.

Chairman Alexander and I have a record of seeing tough legislation through to the end together, whether that’s K-12 education, FDA user fees, mental health reform, or opioid use disorders—

Which is why I’m confident we can do the same with our stabilization bill.

We’ve negotiated a strong agreement that has the support of sixty Senators and growing…

…the President has expressed his support for our effort…

…and so I see no reason why we shouldn’t move this bill through the Senate, get it signed into law, and then continue the bipartisan discussion on health care in our country.

Now, M. President, I also want to discuss another pressing health care challenge.

And that is the immediate need to extend federal funding for the historically bipartisan, expired primary care cliff programs, like the Community Health Center Fund and National Health Service Corps, and Children’s Health Insurance Program.

It’s now been 25 days since federal funding of these primary care cliff programs and CHIP were allowed to expire by the Republican majority—and in that time, I’ve heard from thousands of people in my home state and nationwide urging Congress to act.

And each day that passes, is a day we are failing to meet our commitment to families and putting the health and well-being of nearly nine million children, including more than 60,000 children in my home state of Washington—and the 25 million patients who seek care from Community Health Centers—at great harm and risk.    

M. President, in Washington state, like so many other states, notices to families about gaps in their children’s health care are about to go out—as soon as December first.

And in my state, we will run out of federal funds for CHIP in November.

So—let me be clear:

Parents in my home state, and across the country, should not be up at night worrying about their child’s health care because Congress can’t get its work done.

That’s unacceptable.

Now, M. President, there is a bipartisan deal in the Senate right now—negotiated between the Chairman and Ranking Member of our Finance Committee—that would provide certainty for this absolutely vital program.

Extreme House Republicans, however, have instead chosen a deeply irresponsible path and are trying to ram through a partisan bill…

…that jeopardizes both efforts—in the Senate and the House—to come to an agreement as soon as possible.

M. President, to be clear, this delay has not been without serious consequences.

But we can still act.

Now—it’s up to Republican leaders to reverse course, come back to the table, and join with Democrats to get it done.

It shouldn’t have to be said—but there shouldn’t be any place for partisanship or politics when it comes to protecting the children and families we represent.

So let’s get this done—and get it done quickly.

  Thank you, and I yield the floor.