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Smith and Wyden on health care reform

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Oregon’s two U.S. Senators spoke on a wide range of issues at a Portland Business Journal breakfast on Monday. Health care reform took up much of the time.

Senator Wyden would end the link between employment and insurance. He correctly pointed out that this link was brought about by wage and price controls during World War II, and is now causing American firms to be less competitive in the global marketplace. He wants health insurance to be more like auto insurance, in that everyone is required to purchase basic coverage. Unfortunately, his so-called “basic” plan includes pre-payment of much preventative and routine care along with true catastrophic health insurance. This almost guarantees that the cost will be high.

Senator Smith disagreed. He believes that individuals should be responsible for deciding what, if any, insurance they purchase for their families beyond a low-cost, high deductible catastrophic plan. His goal is simply that no American should lose their home because of major medical expenses. That’s why his Pendleton vegetable packing business offered $10,000 deductible catastrophic policies to its workers.

It’s good to hear our U.S. Senators talking seriously about reforming America’s health care system. If Senator Wyden will move closer to Senator Smith’s understanding that pre-paid medical care and true health insurance are two different things, they might together make a real contribution to reforming health care in America.

Steve Buckstein is the Senior Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

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