May 22, 2007

Wyden, Bennett, Baird Join CEOs of Top U.S. Companies to Push for Health Care Reform

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Bob Bennett (R-UT) and U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) today joined forces with the CEOs of several of the nation's largest companies to announce that the CEOs have formed a coalition to push for health care reform before the end of the 110th Congress.

Last week, the Healthy Americans Act, which reflects many of the same goals as the CEOs announced today, picked up steam in Congress as Bennett, a senior member of the Republican leadership, announced he would become the chief Republican sponsor of the legislation in the Senate. Baird and U.S Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) announced they would introduce a companion bill in the House.

Wyden proposed the Healthy Americans Act earlier this year. It is the first bipartisan, comprehensive health care reform bill in more than a decade to guarantee health coverage for all Americans.

With today's announcement that top CEOs would be backing health care reform efforts, Wyden said it's clear that Americans - from lawmakers to businesses leaders to constituents at town hall meetings - understand that despite having the most talented doctors and professionals available, the nation's current health care system has failed.

"The bottom line is that whether you are the CEO of a large company competing in the global economy or a self-employed individual struggling to find affordable health care, health care reform is an urgent priority that Congress needs to act on now," said Wyden, a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Wyden said American businesses that provide health insurance to their employees start out at a disadvantage because they face competition abroad from foreign companies whose governments pick up the tab for their health care. They also face competition from companies down the block who choose not to insure their workers. Wyden added that they are burdened by a health care system centered on employer coverage that was created decades ago.

The CEO coalition announced today, the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform (CAHR), is centered on the following: a market-based healthcare system, universal coverage with individual responsibility, financial assistance for low-income individuals; healthier behavior and incentives; and equal tax treatment.

As introduced in the Senate, the Healthy Americans Act reflects many of the same principles by:

  • Guaranteeing affordable, high quality, private health coverage for all Americans that can never be taken away;

  • Providing benefits equal to those of Members of Congress;

  • Giving incentives for individuals and insurers to focus on prevention, wellness and disease management;

  • Including tough cost containment and saves $1.48 trillion over 10 years; and

  • Is fully paid for using the $2.2 trillion currently spent on health care in America.

CEOs and business leaders scheduled to attend today's news conference with Wyden, Bennett and Brian Baird (D-WA) include Steve Burd, CEO, Safeway Inc.; Art Collins, CEO, Medtronic, Inc.; H. Edward Hanway, CEO, CIGNA; Steve Sanger, CEO, General Mills; and Ronald A. Williams, CEO, Aetna Inc.