When business and politics mix

| Print |  Email
Friday, June 01, 2007

s_Robin

Two news announcements hit my desk as we were finishing up this issue’s special report assessing the future of health care.  

It’s been hard to feel optimistic about that future. You only have to look at the continued spiraling cost of health insurance to think progress is remote. Last fall when we delved into health-care reform in September’s cover story on John Kitzhaber’s Archimedes Movement, I railed here about politicians lacking the will to solve the crisis of cost and 47 million uninsured Americans, and challenged  business leaders to get us out of the mess. Has much changed since then?

Our special report this month, finds  hope in some corners. There’s cancer wunderkind Dr. Brian Druker wanting nothing less than to find the cure for cancer; community colleges valiantly working to fill the gap for skilled health-care workers; and while it doesn’t enjoy complete support, Senate Bill 329 has at least brought discussion of health-care reform to Salem.

Back to those two news announcements and that question of how much has changed.

The news came from the office of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, announcing that Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) along with U.S. Reps. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) were joining forces on Wyden’s Healthy Americans Act, which guarantees universal, private health insurance for everyone.

Then just days later, Wyden, a Democrat, announced that this bipartisan coalition was being joined by the CEOs of several of the nation’s biggest companies, including Safeway, Medtronic, Cigna, General Mills and Aetna, which had formed a new Coalition to Advance Health-Care Reform. It was a rare show of solidarity among liberals and conservatives, government and business.

I called Wyden a few days later, catching him as he took a break from the Senate floor. He was enthusiastic and hopeful about the chance for health-care reform. Why now, when even just last fall it seemed like reformers were tilting at windmills?

“In 1994, CEOs said we can’t afford to fix health care,” Wyden said. “Now they are saying we can’t afford not to fix health care.”

Wyden’s proposal would guarantee private health coverage and benefits equal to those of members of Congress. It would get business out of the business of providing health-care insurance by having employers “cash out” their workers, and those workers then buying their own private insurance. Subsidies would be available to those at lower income levels.

Wyden said he’s talked often to the various health-care reformers here in Oregon and has high-profile CEOs such as Robert Beal of Oregon Iron Works and Mark Ganz of The Regence Group in his camp. He gave credit to the local efforts, such as Senate Bill 329, but said the states cannot fix this on their own.  

“States can set a template, set value judgments, but it needs to be in line with federal policy. I think to the extent a state can determine how much money people are spending in state dollars and how you can involve people in making judgments about benefits, it’s time well spent.

“But the states cannot fix problems they didn’t cause.”

His biggest concern now is keeping the momentum going for reform.

“We’re going to race against the clock,” said Wyden, “because 2008 will consumed by the presidential race.” Wyden and the bill’s supporters plan to pull out all the stops to get something done this year, or any reform will wait until 2009. His bill currently is pending in the Senate Finance Committee.

This summer, unlike last fall, there are politicians and business leaders — at the state and local level, from both sides of the political aisle — who have stepped up. Let’s hope we don’t wait two more years for real progress to happen.

— Robin Doussard
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Cache and Curry

March 2015
Monday, February 23, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Power Lunch at Swagat in Hillsboro.


Read more...

All Rise

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Don’t just sit there. For a healthy workplace, move up and down — and all around.


Read more...

The week journalism died

Linda Baker
Sunday, February 15, 2015
deadjournalismthumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

As the investigation against the governor moves forward, those of us in the news business should reflect on our own potential for subverting the democratic process.


Read more...

The 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon

March 2015
Thursday, February 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

Employment in Oregon is almost back up to prerecession levels — and employers are having to work harder to entice talented staff to join their ranks. This year’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon project showcases the kind of quality workplaces that foster happy employees. 


Read more...

10 quotes explaining crisis at Port of Portland

The Latest
Friday, February 20, 2015
022015 port portland OBM-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The ongoing labor disputes at the Port of Portland came to a head two weeks ago when Hanjin, the container port's largest client, notified its customers it would be ending its direct route to Oregon.


Read more...

Photos from the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon awards celebration

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
IMG 9975cneditPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Images from the 2015 celebration of Oregon's great workplaces.


Read more...

The Human Factor

February 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY BRIAN LIBBY

Matt French opens up South Waterfront.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS