Fighting for better health care
Skyrocketing health insurance costs are an ever-increasing drain on business and family budgets. They are a threat to the economy and the health of every American. President Obama’s health reform package that passed this year takes important steps to start fixing the problem:
• Making it illegal for insurers to use preexisting conditions to deny care to those who need it most;
• Prohibiting insurers from using lifetime caps on coverage to deny care to those with rare and chronic illnesses;
• Stopping insurers from dropping people when they get sick;
• Guaranteeing that all children and young adults will get the care they need;
• Providing tax credits so small businesses can afford to cover their employees; and
• Ending the shifting of healthcare costs for the uninsured to those already paying for coverage.
But Ron Wyden knows that more needs to be done to fix the broken health care system and will keep working for reform until that is done.
As a young attorney, Ron co-founded the Oregon Gray Panthers to fight for the rights of seniors and served as Director of Oregon Legal Services for the Elderly. Since then, Ron has been working to provide better quality of life for seniors and health care for all Americans.
Protecting Senior Citizens from Insurance Rip-offs
In 1990, Representative Wyden wrote and passed into law health insurance reform to protect senior citizens on Medicare from predatory sales of health insurance policies. As an advocate for seniors before coming to Congress, Wyden had seen first-hand how seniors were enticed to buy shoeboxes full of health insurance policies that literally weren’t worth the paper they were written on. These rip-off policies drained policy holders’ bank accounts without providing them with any additional coverage. The legislation Wyden passed standardizes policies to make them easily comparable and prohibits the sale of Medigap coverage to individuals already covered by another plan.
Healthy Americans Act & the 2010 Health Reform Bill
In 2006, Ron Wyden authored a groundbreaking proposal to provide affordable, high-quality, private health coverage for every American, regardless of where they work or live. The plan garnered bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate – the only major health reform bill to do so in decades. Although the Congress voted in favor of a different proposal this year, Wyden was able to include several critical initiatives in the final package, including:
• State Waivers – Thanks to an amendment offered by Ron Wyden, states can choose to move forward with their own models of reform rather than implementing the federal mandates. Under the waiver, states can explore a public option or an alternative to an individual mandate, as long as they ensure coverage for the same number of citizens and the same quality of care as provided in the federal plan.
• Free Choice Vouchers – Wyden won approval of his proposal to let many workers take the funds their employers would spend on health insurance and use them instead to purchase a plan that best fits their families’ needs, just like Members of Congress can today.
• Oregon Medicare Advantage Plans – Ron Wyden worked tirelessly to make sure cuts to Medicare Advantage included in the health reform plan did not disproportionately affect Oregon. His work resulted in the legislation giving bonus payments to areas of the country, like Oregon, that have high-quality plans.
The Work Ahead
Now that Congress has passed a package to reform the health insurance system, Ron Wyden knows the work isn’t done. He’s continuing the fight to provide Oregonians with quality, affordable health care, including:
• Accelerating the state waiver provisions of the bill so they begin in 2014, the same year that the law’s primary marketplace changes take effect. Ron is already working with state leaders to create an Oregon-specific solution that builds on Oregon pioneering initiatives like the Oregon Health Plan.
• Increasing choice and competition for both workers and employers. Ron is working to expand access to the health insurance exchanges created by the reform package, so that all employers will have access to the lowest-cost, highest value insurance packages that only the largest firms enjoy today.
• Making all employees eligible for Free Choice Vouchers. The current law sets income limits on those who will be able to take advantage of the vouchers. By expanding them to include all workers, there will be more choice and better competition to keep down costs. Ron wants to give anyone who is abused by their insurer the ability to fire that insurance company and choose another one that best meets their and their families’ needs.