Enzi: Reform health care in stages

2009-08-17T21:30:00Z Enzi: Reform health care in stagesALLISON RUPP Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
August 17, 2009 9:30 pm  • 

CASPER - Congress should approach health care reform in steps, instead of trying to put together a comprehensive package said U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

Health care is so massive that reforms can't be made with one major bill, which is what the Obama administration and congressional Democrats are pushing, Enzi told members of the Casper Rotary Club on Monday at the Parkway Plaza Hotel.

As he has in the past, Enzi touted his "10 Steps to Transform Health Care in America" that he created several years ago.

"By doing it in 10 steps, you can bite off one step at a time or even three or four," Enzi said.

If they do it all at once, it gives lawmakers more opportunity to find problems with the bill, he said.

"We do need to have health care reform," Enzi said.

"We do need to get it right. We need take the time to do it. I think the only way it will happen is we need to break it down into smaller parts than we have now and put it through one at a time."

Enzi was in Casper as part of a two-week tour of Wyoming during the Senate's August recess. He Republican will be back in Casper on Wednesday.

The vast majority of his speech to Rotary members focused on his role in health care reform. He is one of the "gang of six" in Congress still working toward bipartisan health care reform.

The reason he is one of the six, he said, is that he is the only senator on the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Finance Committee and Budget Committee.

Also, he has a history of working across party lines on legislation, he said.

However, he said The New York Times has written articles asking why a senator from the least-populated state was in the "gang of six" and accusing him of "hijacking" health care reform.

The senator said he wants to keep working until they can get it right.

Enzi supports health insurance cooperatives, an idea proposed by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

Enzi said they are very similar to the small business health plans he proposed several years ago, which would allow small businesses to pool together across state lines and even nationwide to effectively negotiate for lower insurance costs.

"That is something I am still pushing for," Enzi said. "Small business health plans are one way of increasing choices. Co-ops will increase choice.

"If we have more people getting insurance, if we are covering more of them, more companies will be coming into it."

Though Monday's Rotary gathering wasn't exactly a town hall meeting. Enzi fielded only two questions. He said many members of Congress and even President Barack Obama were learning lessons in town hall meetings across the country this month.

And even changing their minds.

"The president said yesterday that he wasn't wedded to the public option," Enzi said.

Enzi has never supported a public, government-run health insurance program.

"There's no problem with your delegation," Enzi said. "I think all of us are working toward the same goal. ... All the principles that the president wants, we want."

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