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Sen. Ron Wyden on Health Reform at AHCJ

Sen. Ron Wyden on Health Reform at AHCJ

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) on Friday gave an engaging speech on his health reform plan at the Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Seattle, getting in a nice laugh line when he called COBRA insurance "the only federal program named after a poisonous snake."

"We are spending enough money on health care,"Wyden said. "We are not spending it in the right places." Wyden suggested that the $2.5 trillion dollars that will be spent on health care in the United States in 2009 could be used hire a $225,000-a-year doctor for every seven American families - a simplistic equation, to be sure, but one that will grab attention for his plan, called the Healthy Americans Act.

It's worth learning more about this bill, which has bipartisan support, as a starting point for covering health reform in the coming year. Wyden's plan essentially shifts the money employers put into health insurance to workers, along with a tax deduction for health care. It creates an individual mandate to purchase insurance coverage (subsidized, if necessary) and guarantees that insurers can't cherry-pick only the healthiest people. It promises to be revenue-neutral - a claim some health policy experts will surely contest in the coming months - but promises cost savings through streamlining administration and improving preventive care.

Center for Health Journalism Digital offers a good primer on covering health reform by the noted reporting team Donald Barlett and James Steele and a guide to useful online resources for covering the various reform plans. I also like the discussions on Matthew Holt's The Health Care Blog and Bob Laszewski's federal health policy blog.

Health reform is going to be a major story in 2009, so familiarizing yourself with Wyden's plan is as good a way as any to dive into the debate. I'll write more about ways to humanize, localize and simplify the complexities of health reform in future posts.


Picture of Duncan Moore

Great short summary of Wyden's speech, Barbara. What I thought was especially interesting was how he answered the question from the single-payer zealot who wanted to know why he thought his plan was superior to the correct solution. Legislation deals in the realm of the possible, not the perfect, was the gist of it. Find a path that is tolerable to the largest group of legislators, and follow that, he said.


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