Guest Opinion: Congress going in wrong direction on health care

By Jackie Clary, Kim Smith and Leslie Lowe

Posted Jun 22, 2017 at 12:01 AM

Why did the League of Women Voters contact Congressman Greg Walden and why does the League oppose what Congress and the White House are doing with health care? We have a 98-year history of developing fact-based, nonpartisan public policy positions, just one of which relates to health care. To develop a position the League first does a comprehensive study, utilizing research and expert opinions from all sides of the discussion. A draft report is peer reviewed for accuracy and objectivity and then presented to League members for consensus development and adoption of a position. This deliberative process can be done at local, state, or national League levels. The most recent health care study by the national League was two years in the making, was adopted in 1992, and resulted in the following:

The position calls for a national health insurance plan financed through general taxes, commonly known as the ‘single-payer’ approach. The position also supports an employer–based system that provides universal access to health care as an important step toward a national health insurance plan. The League opposes a strictly private market-based model of financing the health care system. With regard to administration of the U.S. health care system, the League supports a combination of private and public sectors or a combination of federal, state, and regional agencies. The League supports a general income tax increase to finance national health care.” (League of Women Voters of the United States, “Important Issues 2016-2018: A Guide to Public Policy Positions,”

The position also calls for coverage that spells out policies that cover a basic level of quality care at an affordable cost and strong cost-control mechanisms. Ability to pay is rejected as a factor in receiving basic services. At all levels, the League has worked on behalf of its health care position through the 1990s, 2000s, and right up until today.

So the League opposes the repeal of the ACA and opposes the AHCA because both actions move the nation drastically in the opposite direction of the League’s position for universal health care. We want affordable, essential health care for all, and the AHCA passed by the House will cut somewhere between 14-24 million people from insurance coverage by 2020, raise premiums by 20 percent, gut coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, do $800 billion in long-term damage to Medicaid, and allow women to be charged more for basic services. Conversely, steps like the public option and Medicare for all — on the way to a full single-payer system — are supported by the League. These approaches increase access to essential care and single-payer efficiencies save money. Affordability can only really be achieved when everyone has health insurance and the system has the tools to control the costs including, importantly, the ability to control the cost of drugs and eliminate profit-driven policies of insurance companies. A single-payer system can do all of that.

Local Leagues in the Rogue Valley, Klamath Falls and Deschutes County (Congressional District 2) have a standing request to Rep. Greg Walden to co-sponsor a town hall solely on health care reforms — an important debate that Congress has avoided and the Senate has refused to even discuss publicly. We are still waiting for Congressman Walden’s response.

In these times of intense health care debate, the League of Women Voters (which also includes many men) will continue to work for society’s benefit and civil discourse. There is no end to the national good that comes with healthy residents. All aged 16 and over are welcome to join this effort.

Jackie Clary is president of the League of Women Voters of Rogue Valley. Kim Smith is president of the League of Women Voters of Deschutes County. Leslie Lowe is president of the League of Women Voters of Klamath County.