Time Is Now For Health Reform: Senator

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Washington

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Two leading senators are preparing bipartisan legislationcreating a commission to develop a comprehensive health care reformplan.

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Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said they willshortly introduce the “Health Care That Works for All AmericansAct.”

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The legislation would establish a Citizens Health Care WorkingGroup that will conduct meetings across the country seeking publicinput on what people want in terms of health care reform and whatthey are willing to pay for.

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Out of this process, the Working Group will write a report toCongress. The relevant Congressional committees will then be givensix months to develop legislation that reflects the conclusions ofthe report. If the committees fail to act within six months, anymember of Congress could force a vote.

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In a recent speech at the National Press Club, Sen. Wyden saidthe time for the legislation is now.

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“I believe Congress has the best opportunity it has had in yearsto enact meaningful health reform,” he said.

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

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Sen. Wyden said the legislation must be moved quickly if healthcare reform is not to get lost in the crush of Congressionalbusiness. “I believe the heavy lifting must be done in the firstsix months of the 108th Congress,” he said.

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It is difficult, Sen. Wyden said, to get action on health issuesduring the last months of a session, adding that by the Augustrecess, another presidential campaign will be underway.

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Sen. Wyden said the goal of the legislation is to let theAmerican people know that with one-seventh of the economy on theline, their voices will be heard first on health care reform, notas an afterthought.

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

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Three major groups that rarely agree on health care issuestheAmerican Association of Retired Persons, the AFL-CIO and the UnitedStates Chamber of Commerceall announced support for the Wyden-Hatchlegislation in a joint statement.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Property &Casualty/Risk & Benefits Management Edition, January 20, 2003.Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serialpublication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as anindependent work may be held by the author.


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