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Walden: Democrats seek to yank state health care flexibility


Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said Wednesday that Congress should focus on lowering health care costs, increasing patient choice, and giving states like Oregon greater flexibility for innovation to keep health care affordable.

During an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, Walden said that lawmakers must work together to “cut out-of-pocket costs, promote access to preventive services, encourage participation in private health insurance, and increase the number of options available through the market.”

Specifically, Walden called on Democrats to back off their plans to prevent states like Oregon from continuing to innovate in their health care markets to keep insurance premiums low for patients. Oregon does this successfully through the use of a “1332 waiver,” which gives states the flexibility to pursue innovative strategies for providing residents with access to high-quality, affordable health insurance.

“In Oregon, we have an active 1332 waiver for a cost-based reinsurance program. I supported my home state’s application and approval as the only Republican in our congressional delegation,” said Walden. “And in Oregon, the reinsurance program kept premiums 6 percent below what they would have been without it. Those are real savings for patients in my state.”

Last year, the Trump Administration expanded flexibility granted to states under 1332 waivers so that states had the ability to develop innovative approaches to increase consumer control, expand patient choice, and strengthen competition in their health care marketplaces. A proposal offered by Democrats at Wednesday’s hearing would roll back this expanded flexibility.

“Why would our Democratic colleagues be opposed to states innovating on behalf of their citizens? Why would they be opposed to providing patients flexible and affordable insurance options that best fit their needs? This just doesn’t make sense,” said Walden.

During the hearing, Walden also stressed the need for a hearing to examine the impact of a Democratic proposal for a government-run health care system, called Medicare for All. Left-leaning think tanks like the Urban Institute have found that a Medicare for All proposal could cost taxpayers as much as $32 trillion. Democratic lawmakers have also acknowledged that the proposal would end private and employer sponsored health care.

Last week, Walden called for a hearing to examine the implications of such a proposal, and raised concerns about the impact Medicare for All would have on America’s health care system and the budgets of American families. Walden reiterated those concerns today.

“The Democrats’ Medicare for All proposal would force over 150 million Americans to lose their employer or union sponsored health insurance. You want to talk about sabotage, that is what we should be having a hearing on,” said Walden. “I want to reiterate my call that Energy and Commerce hold hearings on this issue.”

To read Walden’s full remarks during Wednesday’s hearing, please click here.

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