October 13, 2009

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden: Statement announcing his vote to pass "America's Healthy Future Act" out of committee

Mr. Chairman and Colleagues, I think we all understand that health Reform legislation is unlike any other bill. Apart from the fact that it affects all Americans and our entire economy, writing a health reform bill is fundamentally different than anything else the Congress does.

Take for example an appropriations bill or a tax bill, these kinds of bills are largely collections of a variety of different provisions, some of which are so important to a particular a state or a particular Senator that he or she votes for it.

But I think the chairman knows through all of the long hours that we put in here, health reform is about fitting the pieces together in a way that works for the American people and doesn't upset the whole. Health reform is like an ecosystem. The independent organisms are hardly independent. A change in one area leads to changes in another area which leads to changes in yet still other areas. So you cannot do health reform piecemeal. You've got to find a way to fit all of the pieces together.

I've made it clear, as the Chairman and I have talked about, there are a variety of very constructive provisions in this legislation. And as far as I am concerned, leading the way is making sure that our people don't go to bed at night thinking that they are going to get hammered in the morning because they've got a preexisting condition. And there are other important provisions as well that I know colleagues on both sides of the aisle are concerned about.

I do have an enduring concern that more has to be done to fit the pieces together. Chairman Baucus has just indicated in our colloquy that he will work with me and other colleagues to try to get that done. To create exchanges where Americans for example can shop for coverage like a member of Congress as part of a large group with new bargaining power, low administrative costs for their health plans and where they can get a good deal.

I'll close Mr. Chairman by saying that I have had a chance, I think, to meet with almost every member of this committee and every member of the Senate in their offices to listen to them, to hear what they think needs to be done to promote good quality affordable coverage to all Americans. And I am convinced every one of those colleagues is anxious to get real health reform while we have spirited debates about how to actually get it done. But there are some in this country whose primary goal, unfortunately, is to defeat real health reform. Now I don't want to do anything to advance that cause, I want to continue to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make progress on making the pieces of real health reform fit together. And I think we can get that done.

My vote today to advance this bill forward is the judgment that there is enough good will in this committee and in the congress to move forward in bipartisan way. We're going to have to do it because then otherwise the American people won't believe our legislation is affordable. They will be concerned about restricted choice, and none of us want that. We want to move forward in a fashion that puts the pieces of health care reform together with the start that we are making here today. It is my intention, when we call the roll, to vote to move this legislation forward and I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your cooperation.