Legislation Aims To Develop Health Care Reform Plan

By

Washington

Two leading senators are preparing bipartisan legislation to create a commission to develop a comprehensive health care reform plan.

Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, say they will shortly introduce the “Health Care That Works for All Americans Act.”

The legislation would establish a Citizens Health Care Working Group to conduct meetings across the country seeking public input on what people want in terms of health care reform and what they are willing to pay for.

Out of this process, the working group will write a report to Congress. The relevant Congressional committees will then be given six months to develop legislation that reflects the conclusions of the report. If the committees fail to act within six months, any member of Congress could force a vote.

In a recent speech, Wyden said the time is now for the legislation. “I believe Congress has the best opportunity it has had in years to enact meaningful health reform.”

For one thing, he said, the new Senate leader, Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has a longstanding interest in health policy. Moreover, he said, the public is fed up with inaction on issues that should have been resolved years ago, and there is growing evidence the need for broad reform is urgent.

Wyden said the legislation must be moved quickly if health care reform is not to get lost in the crush of Congressional business.

“I believe the heavy lifting must be done in the first six months of the 108th Congress,” he said.

It is difficult, Wyden said, to get action on health issues during the last months of a session, adding that by the August recess, another presidential campaign will be under way.

Wyden said the goal of the legislation is to let the American people know that with one-seventh of the economy on the line, their voices will be heard first on health care reform, not as an afterthought.

Reforming health care, the senator said, will require tough choices. “Im convinced that if the Congress gives the public the facts, people will be willing to think hard about a system that literally means life or death to them, and then make the difficult choices that are necessary.”

But there is no time to waste, he said. “Implementing broad health care reform is not something you are going to get done in a week.”

But if Congress does not pass reform soon, Wyden said, there is no way the country will be ready for all the baby boomers who will need more and improved health care as they age.

Three major groups that rarely agree on health care issues–the American Association of Retired Persons, the AFL-CIO and the United States Chamber of Commerce–all announced support for the legislation in a joint statement.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 20, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.