Merkley pushes hard for Healthy Kids plan

Speaker Jeff Merkley went before the House Revenue committee and made a strong pitch for the Healthy Kids plan.

“I had hoped to come here arm-in-arm with the Republican leadership and present a strong set of amendments with broad bipartisan support,” Merkley told the committee. “But although that is not the case, I want to sincerely thank the members from both parties who were willing to sit down and spend so much time trying to make this bill the very best it could be.”

His amendments to the plan include a plan to make health care more accessible to rural families. From his statement:

The bill will also increase access to health care in rural areas by establishing a 24-Hour Medical Advice Hotline; establish a Healthy Kids information hotline where parents will receive information about health care providers in their communities; and increase access to federally qualified health clinics, safety net clinics, and school based health clinics.

“Our goal here is health care, not insurance,” Merkley said. “Increasing affordability often means very little if that care is not easily accessible.”

“Nothing we will consider this session is more important for families than affordable, accessible health care for all Oregon’s children.” Merkley said.

Read the rest of his statement. Discuss.

  • Jack Lorts (unverified)

    With an infinite number of issues before all of us, from Iraq to energy independence, from homeland security to who will run against Gordon Smith in '08, there is no issue more important than affordable health care, especially for kids and more particularly for those in the rural parts of our state. Jeff Merkley and other legislators who are advocating for such reforms are to be commended. Living as I do in a small town served by a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), I know very well the problems of lack of availability of health care in our rual areas. Our community is close to 100 miles from the nearest doctor and hospital, We need all the assistance we can get in delivering quality, afordable health care to our rural kids, adults and seniors. Keep up the good work, Jeff!

  • dddave (unverified)

    Health insurance is a funds delivery system, not health care. Please pay attention. How about a card that gets you free care, and then the doc just bills the state, and we cut out the insurance middle man? Cant get doctors in rural areas, not enough business, way too high malpractice costs? Your cig tax will not address the right problem.

    As far as a sin tax, you libs squak all day long about, wait for it,,,,,,,,, STABLE FUNDING, but you all swallow your tongues on this one. Again, with a $4 billion increase in the state budget per year, why do we need an earmarked tax?

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    Your "you libs" comment implies you consider yourself something else. That's fine, though it would be interesting to know what, and what you are accusing me of in labelling me a lib. Also it might be nice not to assume that all writers and readers here think the same thing say about taxation -- cursory consultation of the evidence would show otherwise.

    But, on to substance, I couldn't agree more with what you say about a health care card. One national level approach that has recently been endorsed by Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine (don't have link to hand), would be to extend Medicare to everyone.

    However, the inadequate patching being considered in the legislature is considerably better than the current situation. Direct state funding that cuts out the insurance middle men isn't on the cards immediately. If you are attacking us putative "libs" from the right, it's your folks who are largely responsible. If it's from the left, well, the thing we have to do is change the calculus of what is "realistic."

    When some good folks put a state single-payer system on the ballot a few years ago, it got smashed (26% yes if I recall, including me). From a distance I thought there were a lot of unnecessary problems with their campaign, though my non-involvement undermines my status to criticize.

    Oregon is really too small to sustain a public system on its own -- a West Coast compact might be big enough, although there is a national bill in Congress, HR 676 I believe, sponsored by John Conyers. However, neither of those are going to move quickly either.

    The biggest issue in my view is that we need to break the soft censorship that exists at present about any form of direct public provision of health care or health care access. The current debate is intellectually dishonest because the media won't treat the idea seriously and give time to proponents to explain and debate. Yet is a serious idea that works quite well in a lot of countries -- not perfectly, but better than here. So we need to start by demanding a full and honest debate.

    Chris Lowe (public health grad student, OHSU & left-of-liberal social democrat)

    p.s. On cigarette taxes, I'm of two minds. It's a regressive tax in that smoking is more prevalent among lower income people, but then again that fact represents a form of class war in health, against the categories who will be least able to pay the health costs of this lethal, legal, addictive substance. Taxing smoking does cause people to quit. Maybe that reason is too paternalistic. But the idea of a cigarette tax dedicated to smoking prevention and cessation makes a lot of sense to me. For funding general health care, not such a good idea.

  • (Show?)

    From this morning's NY Times:

    A majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to do it, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

    Why can't be be bolder and step to the plate on this one and say funding chldren's health care is more important than relying on cigarette taxes?

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