Wyden: Forget '08, Let's Fix Health Care Now

The major domestic issue in the 2008 election is going to be health care, but Ron Wyden isn't waiting for a new President to take it up two years from now.  He is proposing a bill that would require people to buy health insurance, provide a high-quality comprehensive basic plan to all Americans, radically cut costs, and - most dramatically - force insurance companies to cover everyone at the same rate.

In an article for The Hill published two days ago, Wyden argues that the time for this legislation is now and made the case for why American businesses should support universal health care reform:

The debate in the Senate has reached a critical moment, at least for this session of Congress. The conventional wisdom is that healthcare reform is an issue for 2009. But with costs skyrocketing, chronic illness increasing and our employers at a competitive disadvantage, Americans can’t afford to wait two more years for action.

The Wyden plan calls for six key changes:

Tough cost containment, as the Lewin Group (the gold standard of health policy analysis) reports that it will save almost $1.5 trillion over the next decade by slowing the growth of health costs.

Real insurance reform that eliminates insurance company “cherry picking” (also known as insuring only the healthy) so companies must compete on the basis of price, benefits and quality.

Incentives for seniors to stay healthy because they can get reductions in their outpatient premiums for lowering their blood pressure or reducing their cholesterol. Parents who choose to enroll their youngsters in preventive health programs would be eligible for reductions in their premiums. An emphasis on healthcare, not sick care, which is critically important with the huge increase in preventable, chronic illness.

Redirection of current inefficient healthcare tax breaks, ensuring that all Americans can afford the basic private health plan.

Easy access to information about available plans, their cost and quality — no more lost hours in the search for quality medical care.

Incentives for states to enact responsible, legal reforms that reduce defensive medicine and frivolous litigation.

The timing is interesting.  Not only are Democratic presidential candidates busy brandishing health care white papers in debates, but Michael Moore's Sicko debuts on June 29th.  The summer doldrums are generally not considered a hot legislative session, but the circumstances for health care reform may be coming together at the right moment.

In the article, Wyden asks for people to join the coalition; you can do that by visiting Wyden's website, Stand Tall For America.


  • BlueNote (unverified)

    Kudos to Wyden for leadership on this difficult and politically tricky issue.

    Part of me wants to see gridlock prevail until the entire US health care system falls apart and we can finally get to a universal single payer system. The other part of me realizes that a lot of people are being hurt under the existing system and a lot more people will continue to suffer unless something is done right now. On balance, I have reluctantly concluded that any reasonable measure that addresses the uninsured problem is a good idea, even if such programs will delay or perhaps eliminate any hope of a single payer system.

    I don't think that the average voter has any concept of the impact that our broken health care system has on the US. Obviously the cost to our economy is reaching the breaking point, but on an individual level, I am approaching my mid 50s and I know dozens of people who would like to consider early retirement - thereby creating high wage jobs for young people entering the workforce - except that my 50 something friends can't justify paying $1000 a month for the next 6 or 8 or 10 years while they and their spouses wait for Medicare to kick in. So my friends keep their jobs, which some of them don't particularly need or want, except for the medical insurance coverage. What a bizarre system we have created for ourselves.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    This would be a good time to visit the Archimedes Movement web site for more on health care.

  • Karl Smiley (unverified)

    The health insurance industry is the largest suck on our health care system. As long as we keep subsidizing them, I don't see much chance for improvement. I just got back from India where i got a new hip. I got the worlds best treatment there for about the same as my out of pocket would have been for my insurance here. Maybe that's where the future of our health care is going.

  • anon (unverified)

    If Wyden actually cared about health care for all, he would start devoting his energy to working with Bernie Sanders to build support in the Senate for H.R. 676 "Medicare-for-All".

    If Wyden can't quite bring himself to that level of moral integrity and political leadership, he could at least embrace a key component of the Edward's plan that offers:

    http://johnedwards.com/about/issues/health-care/ http://johnedwards.com/about/issues/health-care-overview.pdf

    • Choice between Public and Private Insurers: Health Markets will offer a choice between private insurers and a public insurance plan modeled after Medicare, but separate and apart from it.

    for those of us who don't support his (Wyden's) corrupt sellout of the American people to private insurance companies. Failing that, the Oregon Democrat Party needs to start looking NOW for a real Democrat to run against Wyden in 2010.

    Folks need to read the Wyden plan carefully and decide if you really prefer the insurance-company friendly, "patients are just statistics and costs", Healthy Americans PRIVATE Insurance (HAPI) plans (be sure to remember what that acronym actually means in the debate about health care in the coming months) he is enthusiastically shilling for the insurance companies over Medicare-for-All. And you think it is hard to get an insurance company to pay now?

    <h2>Note to Steve Novick: Make this your issue in a smart way by embracing Medicare-for-All, or at least the Edward's plan, and you'll carry the state over any Democratic challenger --- including Bates --- who doesn't, and over Smith.</h2>
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