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May-27-2009 06:59printcomments

Oregon Labor Groups: Health Care Reform and Competition, Not War (AUDIO)

Labor organizations say they are concerned that a proposal from Senator Wyden could trump the reform process carried out by the Oregon Health Fund Board. which was supported by thousands.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden

(PORTLAND, Ore. ) - It's been a war of radio ads for the past week criticizing and praising U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden's health care reform proposal, with labor groups and the Oregon Democrat himself paying for air time.

Now, labor organizations are calling for a new round of dialogue. They met at the capitol Tuesday afternoon to go over the pros and cons of Wyden's plan.

One positive is that the senator gets kudos for being a long-time leader on health care reform. But, the centerpiece of his proposal - to tax employer-based health care as income - is controversial, even with a standard deduction at the end of the year to help offset the new taxes.

Steve Sander is a state employee with Oregon AFSCME Local 2505, who says that doesn't make sense for everyone.

"The traditional mantra of public service is that you don't make as much money, but usually the benefit packages are pretty good. And so to, all of the sudden, have those benefits taxed - I have to say, my members and I, we hate that."

Wyden claims his plan would offer health care to everyone as good as Congress gets. But, Oregonians want something bigger, says Sander, including a much-talked about public insurance option, which is not included in Sen. Wyden's plan.

"It doesn't seem like real reform. I think there will be more of an emphasis on quality if everything's under the microscope of a public health program, which the insurance companies would have to compete with, as well."

Thousands of Oregonians participated in the reform process carried out by the Oregon Health Fund Board, and some of those reforms are moving through the legislature. Labor organizations are concerned Sen. Wyden's proposal could trump those plans.


Special thanks to Oregon News Service
Producer: Deborah Courson
Reporter: Deborah Smith


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