WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon found President Barack Obama was touting politics as usual in his speech before Congress Wednesday night about health care reform.
In a written statement following the speech, Walden argued for a deliberate and bipartisan process to reform health care insurance along common-sense lines. That's something Walden said is now missing.
"Americans have spoken loudly and clearly that they want bipartisan healthcare reform, rather than current proposals that jeopardize the care they have," Walden said. "The President should encourage Speaker Nancy Pelosi to finally work with Republicans to achieve real, bipartisan reform."
Walden reasoned the current system needs reform and, given a chance, Democrats and Republicans can work together to build health care reform the country needs. But the public and Congress need time to actually read and understand any proposal before lawmakers vote on it.
"There's a lot of commonsense reform that can and should happen without dismantling what we know already works today," Walden said.
Real reform, Walden said, would strengthen senior care, not jeopardize it through Medicare cuts, and "address the waste, fraud and abuse and stop frivolous lawsuits that drive up the cost of care for everyone."
Some critics have touted tort reform is a must for any health insurance reform because it will quell frivolous lawsuits and decrease the costs of medical malpractice insurance. Studies from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office, though, are inconclusive on the matter or show tort reform would have a minimal affect on lowering health care costs.
Walden also said Congress should look to successful state programs that provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and help folks keep their coverage if they lose their job. Small businesses should have the power to group together, he said, to bargain for better rates and plans for their employees.
Further, Walden expressed doubt about the president's claim he won't sign any health reform bill that will add to the national debt. According to the CBO, Walden said, the current legislation would deepen the national debt by $239 billion and leave millions of Americans uninsured.
"This is not the kind of change we can afford," he said.
A senior Walden staffer said while some Democrats have not reached across the political aisle, perhaps the president's speech signaled a change to that tune.