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Health plan's too expensive, Walden says

Coverage more accessible, affordable, Merkley says
 Posted: 2:00 AM March 23, 2010

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, whose 2nd Congressional District covers much of rural Oregon, was the lone Oregon delegate voting against the national health care overhaul bill.

Walden, chairman of the GOP's Leadership Committee, called it a government takeover of health care.

"This bill costs too much and puts too much government between people and their health care," he said in a prepared statement on Monday.

"This bill doesn't reign in junk lawsuits or reduce premium costs. Real health care reform would make premiums more affordable, allow small businesses to group up, and make coverage more accessible, all without a government takeover or new taxes."

Walden, who district includes Jackson County and portions of Josephine County, accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., of writing the legislation behind closed doors while cutting sweetheart deals to obtain support for the bill.

"They should have scrapped this flawed bill and started over on a bipartisan plan that makes the reforms we need without jeopardizing the quality care millions of Americans depend on today," he said.

Oregon Democrats David Wu of Portland, Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Peter DeFazio of Springfield and Kurt Schrader of Salem all supported the bill.

DeFazio told the Associated Press Monday that he and other members of Congress threatened to vote against the bill to win steps to correct long-standing geographic inequities in Medicare reimbursements.

He said $400 million will be directed over the next two years to states that historically have been paid much less than others, and studies will be done to correct the system long-term.

The House voted 219-212 on Sunday to approve the overhaul.

The 10-year, $938 billion bill would extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans and ban insurance company practices such as charging more to cover women and denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the legislation awaiting the president's approval would cut deficits by an estimated $143 billion over a decade.

"This (House) bill is a long stride forward in the battle for affordable, accessible health care," said Oregon's junior U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat who supported the Senate version of the bill. "The bill does three critical things: It ends insurance practices that victimize our families; it creates state insurance policy markets that increase choice and competition; and it invests in our health care work force to counter the rapid retirement of baby boom practitioners."

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden did not respond to requests for comment.

Merkley noted that the Senate still needs to take up a separate House health overhaul bill that makes several improvements on the main bill passed Sunday. The fix-it bill will now go to the Senate, where debate is expected to begin as early as today. Senate Democrats hope to approve it unchanged and send it directly to Obama to be signed. Republicans are expected to attempt parliamentary objections that could change the bill and require it to go back to the House.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or pfattig@mailtribune.com.


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