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Wyden: Exempt Oregon from healthcare reform

September 7, 2010

Wyden Defects on ObamaCare
Wall Street Journal
Editorial 9/3/10

Most Democrats have come to understand that they can’t run on ObamaCare, but few have the temerity of Ron Wyden. The Oregon Senator is the first to break with the policy underpinnings of the bill he voted for.  Last week Mr. Wyden sent a letter to Oregon health authority director Bruce Goldberg, encouraging the state to seek a waiver from certain ObamaCare rules so it can “come up with innovative solutions that the Federal government has never had the flexibility or will to implement.”

One little-known provision of the bill allows states to opt out of the “requirement that individuals purchase health insurance,” Mr. Wyden wrote, and “Because you and I believe that the heart of real health reform is affordability and not mandates, I wanted to bring this feature of Section 1332 to the attention of you and the legislature.”

Now, that’s news. One of the Democratic Party’s leading experts on health care wants his state to dump the individual mandate that is among ObamaCare’s core features. The U-turn is especially notable because Mr. Wyden once championed an individual mandate in the bill he sponsored with Utah Republican Bob Bennett. We have differences with Wyden-Bennett, but it was far better than ObamaCare and would have changed incentives by offering more choices to individuals and spurring competition among providers and insurers.

Mr. Wyden should have known better than to vote for ObamaCare given his market instincts and health-care experience. Even so, the price for his support included the Section 1332 waivers that he is now promoting. In addition to the individual mandate, states may evade regulations about business taxes, the exact federal standards for minimum benefits, and how subsidies are allocated in the insurance “exchanges”—as long as the state covers the same number of uninsured and keeps coverage as comprehensive.

Medicaid also grants some indulgences toward state flexibility, even if those waivers are difficult to acquire. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would need to approve the ObamaCare alternative of Oregon or any other states, and the waivers don’t start until 2017, three years after ObamaCare is supposed to be up and running. It is also hard to see how anyone in the current Administration would grant them.

These practical realities aside, Mr. Wyden’s move may be more important as a political signal. Mr. Wyden is running for re-election this year. And while he is now well ahead of GOP challenger Jim Huffman, in a year like this one he has cause to avoid becoming Barbara Boxer or Patty Murray, who may lose because they’ve remained liberals from MSNBC central casting.

This sort of thing also isn’t supposed to happen to newly passed entitlements. Democrats have long believed that once an entitlement passes, however unpopular at the time, voters and business will grow to like it and then Republicans begin to come around. The exception was a catastrophic-coverage program to replace private “Medigap” policies, which Democrats passed in 1988 and repealed a year later amid a public furor.

On ObamaCare, Democrats are having the first political second thoughts, at least in this election season. Mr. Wyden is essentially saying that what his party passed is not acceptable, and if such thinking builds, opponents may have a real chance to replace ObamaCare with something better.

  
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Discuss this article

Pat Kittler September 7, 2010

Let’s not get too excited. Under Section 1332, the waiver cannot take effect until 2017. Before it can be sumitted for approval it needs passage of Oregon legilation after public hearings, must be approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services who may not approve it unless the state plan insures as many people as would be insured if the waiver was not granted (hard to do without the mandate) gives comparable coverage and meets other requirements. If a factual look at the benefits and requirements as the law applies to individuals is wanted go to, http://my.barrackobama.com/page/community/blog_rss/patkittler/html.

Bob Clark September 7, 2010

Wyden is useless. He plays the populist role all the time. For example, blowing hot air against domestic oil companies continuously. This populist rhetoric sounds good to the ear, but in practice it ignores the need to restrain regulation and business costs so as to keep domestic companies competitive so they can compete in unavoidable global market.

Wyden routinely gets a pass from the very blue Oregon electorate so its kind of surprising Wyden is so worried about his campaign he is willing to throw an arrow at ObamaCare. To me this also points to Wyden’s longtime uselessness. Before ObamaCare, Wyden had worked on his own health plan and promoted it. Yet when it came time, he just tossed his own vetted ideas, and cast the deciding vote in favor of ObamaCare. Useless.

Tristan September 8, 2010

I’d like to point out that “ObamaCare”, as you so derisively call it, was never passed. What WAS passed was a conservative’s dream bill. See, Obama’s healthcare bill had a public option in it, which would have created a (partially) taxpayer funded health insurance agency. The “partially” is because the only people really paying for it would be the people using it. The rest of us who can afford private insurance plans (which would still be preferable) would pay a minimal tax to support those citizens who don’t even have enough money to pay for the government plan. The people using it would be on a plan similar to private plans: they pay money every month or year and in return they get coverage on medical claims.

Those of us on private plans would get a tax credit for not using the public option. Businesses who offered medical benefits would receive tax credits greater than they currently receive. Private plans would get cheaper as more people switch to government healthcare and find that it suits their needs just fine (most of us go years without needing a doctor for anything, we don’t really need to get the expensive plans that cover everything).

However, thanks to Republican stupidity (there really is nothing worse in politics), we now have a plan that forces every American to pay a higher tax because the government has to pay private insurance companies to cover every citizen.

You heard that right: the new plan that we actually got calls for the government to cover every citizen, like the original plan, only instead of having a government run insurance company that has minimal overhead costs, thereby reducing the overall costs of the operation and passing those savings on to the insurance customers in the form of lower rates, we have to pay private insurance companies to give coverage to everyone.

Or, at least, we have to pay that higher tax if we don’t have private insurance already. See, it works like this: the more you pay for your insurance premiums each year, the lower the tax that pays for everyone else’s insurance becomes. If you can’t afford insurance on your own, the plan makes the government give you enough money so you CAN afford it. But it’s still paying a private company with massive overhead, which then pays the hospital or pharmacy which also has massive overhead.

So basically, because of the IDIOTS in the Republican Party, we now have to pay MORE money, for LESS benefit, and they all get to sit back and have a laugh because they already get free taxpayer funded healthcare that’s better than anything we can hope to afford (free heart surgery? Seriously?).

No, you have NO right to criticize Obama’s healthcare plan until you pull your head out of the gaping orifice at the base of your spine and actually understand the plan as it was written, not as it was described by Fox news pundits and GOP shills.

Wyden is right to opt out of the plan that was passed, because it isn’t the plan he wanted. He wanted the original healthcare plan, public option and all, and so did every other intelligent American.

magilla November 7, 2010

I was born into a traditional Republican family, and was a registered Republican for over 30 years. I have run three small businesses, and understand how free enterprise and capitalism are supposed to work. When it comes to health care payment, I support a publicly owned and operated, non-profit payment system for basic health care. Supplemental private policies can provide additional coverage.
Why does a supporter of free enterprise support the public system?
Because capitalism and free enterprise are supposed to generate profit by producing and delivering a product or service.
But “Health Insurance” makes it’s profit by creating a pool of money the customer expects will pay for health care expenses, and then denying, delaying, or diverting as much of that payment as possible.
The less Health Insurance pays out, the greater the profit.
That is Capitalism in reverse.
We all have a stake in a healthy population. Do you want the convenience store clerk, who works less than 40 hours a week so the store does not have to provide health insurance, to be passing on a cold virus with the change they hand you? Or the flu? Or worse?
There is a large, honorable place for the profit driven system to provide us with the best standard of living on earth.
And there is a place for the publicly owned, non-profit system to provide essential infrastructure for the private enterprise system to operate.
I favor a kind of Medicare for all system for health care payment, so we are a healthy, productive people, able to work and prosper in the private enterprise system.

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