Senator Wyden gets earful on health, focuses on his plan

Grants Pass resident Roy Gasso traveled to Medford’s Abraham Lincoln School on August 27 for the occasion.  The self-employed consultant had attempted to hear Congressman Peter Di Fazio in Grants Pass but was turned away because of overcrowding.  Gasso brandished a sign reading, “Public Option = Affordable Health Care.” As a small business owner, Gasso expressed the opinion that insurance companies are all monopolies. “The Insurance lobby and Baseball are two industries exempt from anti-trust laws.”  

Priscilla Kerr and friends drove from Klamath County after learning about the event from the internet. Kerr said she opposes government health care programs because “we’re in enough debt already.”

Attorney Angie Lanier attended as a mother, grandmother and independent business owner. “I favor universal health care,” Lanier said. “I want my children and grandchildren to have good health care. (Factions opposed) are lying so much about it.”

Frank Hieber, a retired internist said he practiced medicine before the advent of Medicare. He noted seeing improvements in more patients’ health when they could afford it.   

In front row chairs of honor sat John Snider, Director of Republican Congressman Greg Walden’s Medford Office, and Walden’s Vet. Rep. John Howard.  Snider said he’d been invited to the Democratic Senator’s meeting. 

After presentation of the colors, Medford School Superintendent Phil Long introduced the Senator. Wyden began by honoring several Veterans with flags and long-overdue awards. Donald Graham won eighteen medals; William Phillips’s honors included the purple heart, and James Baird’s the bronze star.

Former Women’s Airforce Pilots, Kay Chaffey and Catherine Murphy are slated to receive Congressional Gold Medals, still under production. 

Wyden also acknowledged  Veterans Services Officer, Marty Kimmel, who leaves her post for a slot in Veterans’ education programs early in September. She’ll work at Southern Oregon University, but cover several counties. 

Superintendent Long  explained the meeting’s ground rules. Anyone who wanted to ask a question or make a comment took a numbered ticket. At random, numbers were drawn from a box. Those called were permitted to ask a question or voice a concern.

The first questioner asked the Senator to “Please  read and understand all legislation that you sign, to make sure it doesn’t add to the deficit.” 

“I didn’t just read it; I wrote it,” Wyden replied. “See our bill—The Healthy Americans Act–on line at It doesn’t add to the deficit. ”

Wyden  stressed that it’s the only health reform legislation currently in progress with bipartisan support. Of its fifteen co-sponsors, approximately half are Democrats, and half Republicans.

One of the bill’s features he mentioned covers Medicare Part B financial incentives for wellness. If people significantly lower their cholesterol, or quit smoking, for instance, and their doctor verifies that their health has improved, their Medicare Part B premiums should be reduced.

According to Wyden, the Healthy Americans Act was analyzed by Congress’s Budget Committee which found it will decrease health care costs in two years. “Insurance Companies today use a ‘cherry-picker’ system with clients,” Wyden said. “They cull out the healthy applicants, and send the sickest ones to the government programs. That’s why there should be no discrimination allowed based on pre-existing conditions. If employers could choose coverage in a ‘farmers’ market’ sort of setting, they could save money on insurance premiums.”

When someone compared Medicare to private insurance, Wyden responded that most Medicare programs currently are administered by private companies. “We can reduce government insurance costs by cutting  administrative costs and  reducing Medicare fraud. My bill has a provision to prevent the frauds from moving to another state just to pull the same fraudulent actions there.”

Wyden remained gracious and unflappable through challenges, and occasional shouts from the packed gymnasium’s audience.  His spokesman Tom Towslee, based in Portland, contends that over seventy-seven percent of Americans favor a public option. He and the Senator seem optimistic that Wyden’s legislation will become law. 
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent.

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