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Eye On Boise

THURSDAY, OCT. 30, 2008, 1:34 P.M.

Wyden: A ‘philosophical truce’ on health care

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden traveled to Boise today to tout his bipartisan health care reform legislation and to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Larry LaRocco. Wyden’s visit came as the five candidates seeking Idaho’s open U.S. Senate seat have staked out widely differing positions on health care reform, a major issue both in the Senate race and in national politics this year.

“There’s been something of a philosophical truce emerge on the health care issue,” Wyden declared, before presiding, with LaRocco, at a roundtable meeting on health care reform with doctors, hospital officials, employers, AARP and labor representatives and more. “To fix health care, you’ve got to cover everybody, because if you don’t, the people who are uninsured shift their bill to those who are insured,” Wyden said. On that point, he asserted, “Democrats have been right.” But he said Republicans also have been right to press for a continuing role for the private sector, that the nation “shouldn’t turn health care over to the U.S. government.” “Republicans have had a good point on that,” Wyden said.

His amended “Healthy Americans Act,” S. 334, now has more than a dozen co-sponsors who are evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Among them are Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. The complex plan calls for providing all Americans the option of either keeping their present, employer-provided health care plan, or switching to new, lower-cost private-sector plans that would be made available to everyone and would cover all basic health care. Medicaid and SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, would be rolled into the new private plans, and everyone would be required to have coverage. Premiums would be subsidized for lower-income people, and employers would help fund the system; states would pay the amounts they now pay for Medicaid and SCHIP. Current tax deductibility for “Cadillac” treatments like extensive cosmetic surgery would be eliminated, to help offset costs.

Wyden said a new analysis of the bill by the Congressional Budget Office showed it would be budget-neutral within two years and would start saving money by the third year. Wyden, a Democrat who is best known in Idaho for co-sponsoring the Craig-Wyden legislation with GOP Sen. Larry Craig that brought millions in federal payments to rural communities to offset losses from decreased logging on federal lands, endorsed LaRocco as “the kind of roll-up-his-sleeves, get-to-work person” he could work with on health care reform in the Senate.

LaRocco faces four other candidates, including current Idaho GOP Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, in the race for the Senate seat Craig is vacating. Click below to read all five candidates’ positions on health care reform.

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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.