Wyden Includes Varied Interests in Health Plan
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), "in developing and selling" his universal health coverage proposal, "has reached out to every interest group, from labor unions to big businesses, from liberal consumer advocates" to Republican lawmakers, the Oregonian reports (Kosseff, Oregonian, 5/29).
Under Wyden's bill (S 334), individuals would be required to purchase their own insurance. Instead of providing health benefits, employers would be required to either increase wages or make "shared responsibility" payments to the government, based on revenue and number of employees (California Healthline, 5/24).
Wyden has sought feedback about the plan from Oregon residents at town hall meetings and from employers. Safeway CEO Steve Burd and Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, have contributed to developing the legislation.
In addition, Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett, who worked to defeat the Clinton administration's health coverage proposal, has signed on as a sponsor of the bill -- "a huge victory for Wyden," the Oregonian reports.
Bennett said the legislation reflects bipartisan compromise, and Wyden has been "far more open to suggestions and resolutions" than those who promoted universal health care during the 1990s.
However, "Wyden risks alienating consumer advocates who say the government -- not private companies -- should be the sole insurance provider," according to the Oregonian.
Don McCanne, senior health policy fellow at Physicians for a National Health Program, said, "Private insurance doesn't work anymore because health care is too expensive." He added, "For a plan to provide truly comprehensive coverage, you'd have to put all risks into a single risk pool."
Wyden responds to such criticism by citing an analysis by the Lewin Group, which found that his proposal would save $1.48 trillion in U.S. health care spending over 10 years because of increased competition and reduced administrative costs (Oregonian, 5/29).