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The Case for Ron Wyden

Wyden_smile
Let me be the first to suggest that the President name Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to be the next 
Secretary of HHS. The withdrawal by Tom Daschle has underscored just how important it will be for the President to name someone who can bring a number of key strengths to the job.

All day reporters have been asking me whom the best person was for the
President to now turn to and get his health care agenda back on track.

Seems to me Ron Wyden fits the bill.

The right candidate will have:

  1. A high degree of respect from members of Congress–both Democrats and Republicans.
  2. An understanding for how the process works both in the House and the Senate and a track record of success.
  3. A reputation for bipartisanship.
  4. A detailed understanding of the health care political and policy challenge.
  5. A passion for health care reform.
  6. The ability to communicate the complexities of health care reform to the American people.
  7. Someone the resident can trust to enact his agenda.

He is:

  • Respected: Senator Wyden is highly respected and well liked by his colleagues—and everyone else in the business of health care policy.
  • Understands the Congressional Process: He has served in the House and the Senate and has a significant track record of accomplishment.
  • Bipartisan: He is the principal author of the Wyden-Bennett health care reform bill—a unique bipartisan health care effort that has as many Republican Senators as Democratic Senators onside —conservatives and liberals alike.
  • Understands Health Care: His Wyden-Bennett efforts resulted in a bill the CBO has scored as revenue neutral in its first few years of implementation—a notable achievement demonstrating Senator Wyden’s understanding of the moving parts in health care.
  • Passion for Health Care Reform: I’ve heard one Senator after another remark about Senator Wyden’s passion and enthusiasm for health care reform—the Wyden-Bennett bill has gone as far as it has in great part because of his passion and personal commitment to it.
  • The Ability to Talk to the American People About Health Care: He has made Wyden-Bennett an important part of the health care discussion.
  • Someone the President Can Trust: Since the election, Senator Wyden has not tried to trump the new administration’s health care efforts by trying to keep the Wyden-Bennett bill at the top of the agenda.

Would Wyden subordinate his own bill to the President’s priorities? I have no doubt that he would. But I also have no doubt that Senator Wyden would make cost containment and long-term affordability, something the President has also been talking about lately, the issue it deserves to be.

Who
has the stature, policy expertise, legislative track record,
bipartisanship, and passion to get the health care reform job done?

After thinking about it all day, the name that comes to mind—Ron Wyden.

Robert Laszweski is a frequent contributor to THCb and has been a fixture in Washington health policy circles for the better part of three decades. He currently serves as the president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates of Alexandria, Virginia. Before forming HPSA in 1992, Robert served as the COO, Group Markets, for the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. You can read more of his thoughtful analysis of healthcare industry trends at The Health Policy and Marketplace Blog.

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DanActuaryjdrbarRoger Collier Recent comment authors
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tcoyote
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tcoyote

Wyden had plenty of quality Democratic company in voting for MMA: Baucus, Kent Conrad, Feinstein, Tom Carper, Ben Nelson, Breaux, Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Zell Miller AND John McCain. Medicare lacked two crucial things to offer the benefit directly: the IT part (PBM’s had the newest IT in the industry) and the detachment from Congressional “earmarking” of favorite drugs or drug classes. The rollout was terribly managed (one CEO friend referred to CMS’s handling of the bidding and enrollment as a “goat rodeo”), something that should be sobering for anyone advocating yet another health plan initiative. CMS has a tiny staff… Read more »

maggiemahar
Guest

tcoyote- I don’t know Wyden, and was not accusing him of anything that many Congressmen don’t do–making a deal: I’ll do this if you do that. What I can’t fathom is why anyone would make a deal in order to pass such a truly terrible bill. (Many Republicans also hated it.) It was terribly chostly, and it caused chaos for seniors trying to get prescriptions (see what Paul Krugman says in his New Yorker article about this) . .. . It would have made far,far more sense for Medicare to offer its own prescription benefit–something less complicated and much less… Read more »

tcoyote
Guest
tcoyote

It certainly wasn’t you I was attacking. I’m a twenty year fan of your writing. Rather, it was the sloppy analysis and the partisan stridency, which adds heat but little light. The pharmacuetical companies have, as suggested above, far more serious problems that whether Medicare tries to “bargain” with them. Orszag suggested a simpler remedy: simply mandate a 15% “rebate” for all branded drugs. I thought your innuendo that Wyden received some “quid pro quo” for his vote was truly obnoxious. Evidence, please? Ron is a person of great integrity, and may well have believed that a flawed drug benefit… Read more »

maggiemahar
Guest

Dan– I also have read Wyden’s Healthy American’s act–and I, too, fail to see how it will control costs. Tcoyote– I assume that the gratutious personal attacks are meant to distract from the fact that you don’t have answeres to the questions. (A typical Conservative strategy: see Greg Anrig’s excellent book, “The Conservatives Have No Clothes.” You have not addressed the fact that Wyden’s bill leaves out a public-sector alternative. Why? The only reason that I can see is that competition with a public sector alternative would make it clear that most insures do not know how to offer value… Read more »

Dan
Guest
Dan

I’ve read Wyden’s Healthy American’s Act. Why it would reduce health care costs escapes me. It’s just another dress up for appearances sake. The number one issue in America is health care costs. While it’s true that issues like uninsured Americans is a related subject, nothing in Wyden’s plan seriously targets health care costs.
Please stop parading around everybody. Let’s talk about the big issues, which are hospital and specialist costs. Are we capable of getting a grip on these areas?

Actuary
Guest
Actuary

“Under Wyden’s healhtcare plan, I know that there would be both community rating and guaraneed issue–which is very good.”
Wrong! Community rating and guaranteed issue are very bad. Notice we don’t have community rating for auto, homeowners, life insurance.
Oh yeah, with community rating a bunch of baby boomers can stick it to the 20 somethings – again.
Guaranteed issue = guaranteed antiselection, as everybody waits until they are on their way to the hospital to sign up.

Dr. Rick Lippin
Guest

tcoyote says-
“These companies are to the high tech world what the Big Three are to the auto industry- cautious, swollen, bureaucratic, lawyer-driven behemoths that have failed in their fundamental mission of scientific discovery, despite nearly limitless R+D spending and huge federal tax subsidies for same. It is a classic example of Drucker’s curse: he whom the gods will destroy he will first give thirty years of prosperity”
YOU GOT THAT RIGHT!
Dr.Rick Lippin
Southampton,Pa

tcoyote
Guest
tcoyote

What the pharmaceutical companies wanted to avoid in MMA was a Veterans Administration formulary that actually tossed their cash cows out the window (what, no Lipitor, no Crestor?). The VA and a lot of state Medicaid programs have kicked the stuffings out of their drug costs with highly restrictive formularies and hard ass price negotiations. What the industry wanted from Medicare was a porous formulary with no political teeth. What has happened instead, abetted by the now decade long drought in new drugs, is that the PBM’s have kicked the stuffings out of them instead and their stocks are selling… Read more »

jd
Guest
jd

rbar, let me start: you cannot negotiate a price when you have nothing to bargain with. Medicare is mandated to include a wide range of drugs. It can’t pretend that it will walk away from the bargaining table if the price isn’t lowered, because Medicare is expressly forbidden from considering price in the formation of its formulary. Now, if the rules were changed and Medicare could act like the national health systems of other nations that consider cost in creating their formularies, that is a different matter. Private insurers do this to some extent already with their tiered formularies, and… Read more »

rbar
Guest
rbar

tcoyote, you seem to know your stuff, but please give me an explanation why the drug prices in the USA are by far the highest worldwide, and whether you think sthg should be done about it, and what.

Roger Collier
Guest
Roger Collier

Hopefully the President doesn’t read HPMB or THCB. Just as would have been the risk with a more tax-compliant Daschle, putting someone in charge of HHS/reform who already has a published agenda is more likely to result in attacks on the agenda than on its forward progress (c’mon, you know how politics works). I happen to think that the Wyden/Bennett bill is, although imperfect, currently the best thing out there. I’d rather see Senator Wyden advancing it across the Senate aisle as a sensible and practical compromise than having to defend it against partisan attacks (and yes, I know it… Read more »

tcoyote
Guest
tcoyote

No room at Hotel Mahar for moderates, I guess. The right and center wings are closed. It would help if Maggie actually read Wyden’s bill before opining what it does to the insurance industry. It completely restructures private health insurance- it defines the benefit, it drastically restricts underwriting practices and profits and provides transparency not evident today, to the point where it is not clear that it is actually insurance any more. And unlike the trillion dollar campaign health reform give-aways of scarce tax payer dollars, the CBO said Wyden’s bill was revenue neutral in a snapshot full implementation year… Read more »

Dr. Rick Lippin
Guest

Kitzhaber might do well in the White House job? Health Care reform czar? Instead of running HHS?
These are TWO VERY DIFFERENT HUGE jobs
Rick Lippin

maggiemahar
Guest

I have trouble getting past the fact that Wyden’s vote in favor of the Medicare Modernization Act (which gave a windfull bonus to insurers and explicity prohibted Medicare from negotiating for discoutns) was key to passing the legislation. Here’s the story of how the bill was passed (from HealthBeat http://www.healthbeatblog.org/2008/04/the-high-cost-o.html “The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (also known as the Medicare Modernization Act) came to the House for final approval at 3:30 a.m. on November 22, 2003. It was losing, 219-215, until the House Leadership, in a very unusual move, held the vote open for hours while the… Read more »

David Rosenthal MD
Guest
David Rosenthal MD

As a physician and former employee of Sen. Wyden, I completely agree with his endorsement for the position of HHS. He is, and has been, a trusted, respected, ethical, and transparent member of the U.S. Senate with a wealth of understanding about the Health Care Sphere. He would be an excellent choice!
David Rosenthal MD