Writings and observations

Radical Ron

Ron Wyden

Ron Wyden

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden doesn’t often find the word “radical” in close proximity. His manner doesn’t suggest it, and neither does his trademark bipartisan work; such gripes as you hear about him back in Oregon tend to come from the left, form people arguing that he’s too compromising.

So even in the context – mainly supportive – what President Barack Obama had to say about Wyden’s health care plan, using the term “radical” to describe pieces of it really jumped out.

The point of difference is Wyden’s proposal to move the linkage between people and health insurance from employers to individuals.

Politically, Obama has a point here. As corrupted as the health care system is overall, a great many people still have health coverage that works decently for them, and they’d reasonably be very concerned about something that would upend it quickly. Obama said that such a “radical restructuring” would face “significant political resistance . . . families who are currently relatively satisfied with their insurance but are worried about rising costs … would get real nervous about a wholesale change.”

Our view has been that employer-based insurance is a structural mistake, and it should be based around individuals. Getting from here to there, though, might have to be more than a one-step process.

Making that change would pull a lot of the structure out of the Wyden proposal. Could be, as the tale progresses in the next few weeks, that large chunks of the rest of the plan are strip-mined for pieces fitted into a different framework.

Obama didn’t sound, in this Oregonian interview, critical of Wyden and sounded as if he was open to working with him: “”He was in the Oval Office just two weeks ago where we spent time thinking about this. He is a real thought leader, and I’m confident his voice will be prominent in the debate going forward.”

Your thoughts, senator?

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