Wyden Upbeat on Free Choice, Public Option

In a national radio interview, Sen. Ron Wyden said even conservative colleagues know value in free choice

October 20, 2009 -- Sen. Ron Wyden picked up the pressure for his Free Choice Amendment and a strong public option in an appearance today on the Ed Schultz national radio program.

“When it comes time to call the roll you’re going to have very strong, positive support from democrats and more republicans than most people would think,” Wyden said.
Here’s text from the interview:
WYDEN: The insurance industry has been in the driver’s seat for too long and we’re going to remove them.
SCHULTZ: The president has gone after insurance companies more than we’ve seen from him before. He’s at war with the insurance industry.
WYDEN: The president understand we will never have an opportunity like this in our lifetime. The fact is we have got to get this done right. Here’s an example. We learned form the budget office the other day that seven years into the bill more than 90 percent o the American people wouldn’t be allowed to choose the public option or health plans like members of congress have. I’m not going to let the public option be setup to fail. I don’t want it to just be folks who are uninsured or unemployed. I want everybody in America to have a chance to get that public option and that private choice to hold insurance companies accountable.
SCHULTZ: So what provision is this, what bill is this?
WYDEN: It’s the Finance bill but it’s pretty much in all of the bills. The help bill, the house bill, because everybody talks about choice and talks about competition, but when it comes to really taking on these powerful interests, it’s not getting done. If you look particularly at the idea of having these exchanges, the marketplace where we have the public option where we have private choices and the only folks who can get it are unemployed or uninsured that’s got to be an insurance company lobbyists dream, because those folks are going to be poorer, sicker, they won’t have good prevention or chronic care. Let’s make sure we have maximized the change to hold the insurance industry accountable. That means public choices. That means private choices and everybody is in.
SCHULTZ: How is that written into any of the bills then?
WYDEN: How it works is if you have insurance from an employer and some government bureaucrat says it meets minimum standards and its affordable that means you’re stuck, you can’t go to the exchange and get the public option or the private option. So picture what this means: if you’re insurance company is abusing you, even if you have coverage form your employer, they’re slow walking you through a claim or they wont’ pay a claim you know should be paid by your policy, you are just tethered to that lousy policy. I don’t think that’s right. A member of Congress has access to more than a dozen good policies. I want all Americans to have all the choices. Because without that kind of leverage to hold insurance companies accountable, things are going to change much,
SCHULTZ: I think most Americans want to be sure they have the ability to opt out.
WYDEN: Every time I go to a community meeting, I see folks carrying signs public option or bust. And I say “Guys, I’m really glad you’re out there. The insurance companies have been ripping people off and discriminating against people with preexisting conditions. But do you know that the way these bills have been written in Congress more than 90 percent of you wont’ be able to get the public option, or any choices,” and people practically fall out the bleachers. I want progressive folks to understand, you bet we’ve got to have a public option, I voted for it twice in the senate finance committee, we just have to make sure everybody has the chance to get it and not just folks who are unemployed or uninsured.
SCHULTZ: Where do you think conservative democrats are going to be on this?

WYDEN: I think that Senate Democrats are going to be there at crunch time. I’ve been talking to a number of conservative Democrats. I think they understand how key it is to hold insurance companies accountable. Some of them were on my legislation, the Healthy Americans Act. I think we’re also going to have more republicans than people think.