We Are Their Voice

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivers a speech on the floor of the Senate this morning highlighting why health insurance reform is so important:
—I want to thank my colleague, Senator Mikulski, and all of the women who are out on the floor today to talk about this critical issue, because the rising cost of health insurance is hurting women, and it's hurting our country.

For the millions of women across this country who open up the mail each month to see their premiums rising dramatically, who can't get preventative care like mammograms because the co-pays are too much, or who work part-time or for a small business that doesn't provide insurance for them and their families, who can't get covered for pre-natal care, or who are forced to stay in an abusive relationship because, if they leave, their sick kids will lose their health care coverage.

Mr. President, we are their voice.

You know, I remember a similar debate like this, on this floor, almost 16 years ago. Senators in this Chamber were debating legislation that would allow 35 million Americans to be able to stay home to take care of a newborn, or a sick child, parent, spouse, without fear of losing their jobs.

I came to the floor then and I told the story about a woman I knew whose child was sick at the time, and who was not allowed to take time off from work to care for him as he was dying, because she would lose her income and the health insurance that covered him.

At the time, as a new member of the Senate, I spoke passionately about that, told the story, and, as I was walking off the floor, one of our colleagues came up to me and he said, "You know, you're in the Senate. We don't tell personal stories." I remember well what I said to him: I came here to tell the stories of the people I represent. They deserve a voice in this United States Senate.

And those stories impacted that debate, and we passed the Family and Medical Leave law. Well, Mr. President, I'm back today to tell the story of the woman whose child was sick.

I want to tell everyone about the story of this little boy here [points to child in picture beside her]; his name's Marcelas Owens. I met him at a health care rally in Seattle. He was ten years old, and he and his two sisters, who you see here as well, have been through a lot.

Two years ago, their mother, Tifanny, who is not in this picture—that is his grandmother—Tifanny lost her life because she was uninsured. Twenty-seven years old. How'd that happen? Well, Tifanny was a single mom who felt strongly about working to support her family, and she worked as an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant. She had health care coverage for her family. But in September of 2006, she got sick and missed some work.

Her employer gave her an ultimatum: Make up the lost time, or lose your job. Well, because she was so sick, she physically couldn't make up the time and she did lose her job. And when she lost her job, she lost her insurance. And without the coverage and care she needed, in June of 2007, Tifanny lost her life. And Marcelas and his sisters lost their mom.

Our health care system is broken. It's broken for moms like Tifanny, who work to provide for their families and do the right thing, and for men who lose their health care in this market we have today. It's broken for women we've heard about [motions to her colleagues who spoke before her] who've been denied coverage or charged more for ‘Pre-Existing Conditions' like pregnancy, or C-sections, or, tragically, domestic violence. It's broken for their families, and for little boys like Marcelas who will never get back what he lost.

Enough is enough. The time is now. The status quo, that is being defended by the other side, is not working. For women across this country, for their families, for our businesses, for our nation's future strength that, as mothers, we care about so much, we have to get this right.

We have to remember these stories. We need to be their voice. That's why we're here today and why we're gonna keep fighting to make sure that we reform the health care and insurance system in this country, finally, and do it right.

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