Walden checks on pulse of health care law

U.S. Rep. answers Chamber questions

Adysfunctional rollout of Obamacare was at the top of everybody's mind at a meeting Wednesday between Congressman Greg Walden and The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County.

Chamber members told Walden about their distaste for the Affordable Care Act, and some members described how difficult it was to secure a plan for their employees because of uncertainty about the law.

Chamber member Randy Jones, a local developer, said the costs to develop the Oregon and national health care websites have been staggering.

"How much has been spent?" Jones asked. "When does that money stop being spent?"

Walden, a Republican from Hood River, said he's seen estimates of $400 million to $600 million for the national website but a more specific dollar figure hasn't been forthcoming.

"It's outrageous, and there needs to be accountability," he said.

Craig Stone, of CSA Planning, asked Walden whether there might be another attempt to repeal the law rather than just putting Band-Aids on it.

"If it's as bad as it appears, we may have some Democrats wanting to repeal it," he said.

Walden said he doesn't see the votes in Congress to repeal the law yet, but he said there might be another way to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.

"The best way to repeal a bad law is to fully enforce a bad law," Walden said, paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln.

He said the general public already has got a taste of Affordable Care Act and the results could eventually create enough dissatisfaction to get rid of it or radically change it.

Instead of changing the entire insurance system to bring down health care costs, the country should have enacted other, less drastic reforms, Walden said.

He said different employers should be able to pool together to get better rates. Competition for insurance plans across state lines could also bring down costs, Walden said.

More tort reform to limit expensive legal actions is another necessity, he said, adding that he does agree with Obama that people with pre-existing conditions need access to health care.

Walden said the government needs to reform the tax code to reward people who get insurance rather than the Obamacare plan that uses the tax code as a penalty.

Government spending was another concern with chamber members.

Brad Hicks, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, said, "The Feds have had our economy on performance-enhancing drugs."

He said he wondered what will happen to the economy when the Federal Reserve cuts its infusion of cash from $85 billion a month currently to $50 billion or less as it eases up on helping the economy through the recession.

Walden said the nation is entering uncharted territory and has to be careful not to undermine the dollar, which is the global currency of trade.

"How do you unwind this without causing inflation?" he said.

On a brighter note, Walden said, Congress has brokered a budget deal that could bring about some long-term spending cuts and avoid embarrassing political stalemates.

"I think it's the best that can be done," Walden said.

The budget deal would cut benefits for veterans, but Walden said the cuts won't take effect until 2016.

"I think that's going to get changed," he said. "We will fix the things that aren't right."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @reporterdm.


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