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Sen. Wyden: $3.5T budget may have to trim but it can set a path to 'ambitious goals'

Michael McAuliff, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

That leaves ample wiggle room in terms of what would emerge, probably in the fall if Democrats can pass the budget reconciliation this summer. Lawmakers’ tinkering and negotiations over how much each item will cost, how long to fund it and how comprehensive a specific program will be could leave certain elements looking skimpy.

Wyden said Democrats may need to settle for very basic versions of these new programs. But the key, he added, is to get the programs started, and show people what is possible.

“The way we’re talking about it — and this is going to be the subject of many, many discussions — is we want to get the architecture of these changes, bold changes,” Wyden said.

Exactly how grand each change turns out to be in the short run may not be the most important thing, Wyden suggested.

“There’s going to be a discussion — this number of years, that number of years and the like,” he said. “But what’s really important, and we’ve talked about it — the Budget Committee’s talked about it — if we get the architecture right, we can start serving people and build on it.”

 

Wyden often talks about how he got into politics after spending nearly seven years running the Gray Panthers advocacy organization in Oregon and teaching gerontology. What he’s believed for a long time is that Medicare simply is not enough to meet people’s needs.

“I would say Medicare is a half a loaf,” Wyden said.

He wouldn’t quite promise a full baguette when the reconciliation process is done.

“This is going to make a significantly bigger set of health care options for seniors. I’m not going to start dividing loaves,” Wyden said.

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