Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate dealt themselves a political blow this month when they rolled out the American Health Care Act and then killed it before it could reach a vote in the House of Representatives. There were a great many concerns about the plan: the proposed deregulation of the private health insurance industry, the increased prices that would have befallen older Americans, the full repeal of the Medicaid expansion and the cuts to women's health care. However, most concerning were the estimated half-million Oregonians who were expected to lose coverage when the new plan was implemented, according to a statement by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
Unfortunately at the helm of that rollout was our own Oregon Rep. Greg Walden. On March 6, Walden released a statement stating: "I'm proud that the plan we've put forth today reflects eight years' worth of conversations with families, patients, and doctors. Simply put, we have a Better Way to deliver solutions that put patients—not bureaucrats—first and we are moving forward united in our efforts to rescue the American people from the mess Obamacare has created. Today is the first step in helping families across this country obtain truly affordable health care, and we're eager to get this rescue mission started."
After eight years of effort, Oregonians expect more. The rush for implementation of this was more politics than policy—not a good reflection on our district's Representative in the House. Moving forward, our state needs a bipartisan effort to create a viable health care system.
"There are plenty of ideas already on the table that would make health care more affordable for working families," said Sen. Jeff Merkley, in a release issued just after the announcement of the failure of the Republican plan, "from a public option, to prescription drug negotiations, to offering older Americans the chance to buy into Medicare. I'm happy to work with anyone, from either side of the aisle, to explore these or any other ideas that would improve health care for working Americans."
We support these efforts to address health care within the Affordable Health Care Act. The plan isn't perfect, and premiums and deductibles are indeed more than many Oregonians can afford. The state's share of the burden for Medicaid—what we call the Oregon Health Plan—is about to increase. And while we commend the Oregon Legislature for its ongoing efforts to insure every Oregon child through the current Cover All Kids legislation, it's yet another thing that doesn't have a clear source of revenue.
Health care is indeed a human right, and while the legislature already has serious budget constraints on its back, our state also has the power to make meaningful moves that could stand as a model for what's possible nationwide. Oregon has long been a model for what's possible in health care.
Were we to think creatively, rather than politically, Oregon could be a frontrunner in the push for a single-payer health care system. This system has been touted by many physicians and health care professionals in Oregon and beyond—and they should know; they work every day within the system. However, as we have all learned these past weeks, health care is complicated and the ACA, contrary to the current political climate, is a good program that has expanded coverage for tens of thousands of Oregonians. Hopefully the gamesmanship is over surrounding health care, and Oregon's elected officials can begin to fashion a path forward.