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Sen. Ron Wyden on interstate coverage at White House health summit

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, February 25, 2010; 5:44 PM

WYDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. President. And I think this has been a very constructive session.

For the last six hours, we have essentially heard Republicans talk about incremental coverage and Democrats talk about comprehensive or broader kind of coverage. And I want to outline something that I think could bring both sides together for just a couple of minutes.

First, on the incremental plan, the evidence shows that incremental reform not only does less, it costs more. And the experts that both Democrats and Republicans rely on have found this. The Lewin Group, for example, the Republicans quote from, they say that. And both sides use them.

Also, history. We have been doing incremental reform in this country since 1994, since the blowup of the Clinton plan, that's exactly what we've been doing and costs have been gobbling up everything in sight in the private sector and in the government.

So I would submit that instead of this debate about incremental reform, comprehensive reform, we could all be for real reform. And real reform, in effect, changes the incentives that drive the system and particular empower the consumer.

Mr. President, I've been very pleased that you've constantly been coming back to the system for members of Congress. Folks, all of us can fire our insurance company, every one of us. And as far as I'm concerned, we've got to stay in this battle until everybody in the United States has that right to hold the insurance companies accountable and to fire them.

And one of the promising points you made this afternoon, Mr. President, that I appreciate is the point on interstate shopping, because this is another opportunity, in my view, done properly -- properly -- to empower the consumer. Colleagues, our system, the one that we enjoy, already allows interstate competition for health insurance. That's the way the federal system works right now, and there are good consumer protections.

So Mr. President, when you made that offer to all of us today to work with us on this, not only am I going to follow up on what I think is a very gracious offer to try to bring both sides together, it allows us to build on the exchanges that we have today, which begin to empower people with more choices and competition. And if we just keep building on that, starting with this effort to bring both sides together on interstate competition, looking, in my view, at the federal employee system to do it, I think we can resolve a lot of our differences.

So I appreciate the opportunity to speak, Mr. President. I want colleagues to know that I'm going to be following up with both sides of the aisle this afternoon, and your administration, to bring this group together.

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