May 29, 2007

Wyden Welcomes Obama Health Care Plan

Portland - I am very pleased that Senator Obama (D-IL) has come forward with a proposal to fix the nation's broken health care system and that his plan is based on some of the core principles contained in the bipartisan Healthy Americans Act. I look forward to seeing the details.

Like the Healthy Americans Act, the Obama plan appears to ensure that every American has quality, affordable private health coverage similar to what Members of Congress have. Both plans also emphasize prevention and wellness, so that our citizens have health care instead of "sick care." And our plans also call for reform of the insurance market so that no one would be denied health care because of pre-existing conditions.

There also are, however, some key differences between our plans: first, the Obama plan calls for a single, national health insurance exchange to monitor insurance companies offering coverage. While it's important to have minimum national standards, I'm not sure creating a new federal bureaucracy is the best approach. By contrast, the Wyden-Bennett legislation would allow each state the flexibility to innovate as long as minimum federal standards are met.

The Obama plan also relies heavily on the current employer-based system which leaves workers at risk of losing their health care if they lose or change their jobs. It also puts U.S. companies and workers at a disadvantage in the long-term when they have to compete in a global economy against overseas companies whose workers get their health care paid by their government.

Finally, it's not clear if the Obama plan does anything to change the current Federal tax code that gives the biggest tax breaks for health care to the affluent and subsidizes inefficiency.

While I will wait to see the details of his proposal, I'm very pleased that Senator Obama has come forward with some health reform ideas and hope that other presidential candidates will do the same.

Editor's Note: Wyden introduced the Healthy Americans Act in January 2007. The chief Republican sponsor in the Senate is Senator Bennett, a senior member of the Republican leadership. U.S. Representatives Brian Baird (D-WA) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) plan to introduce a companion bill in the House.