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By U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley
Published: 20 October 2009

Over the summer, we heard about the tragic losses many American families have endured as a result of our broken health care system.
There are too many stories of folks who lost a loved one because their insurance didn't cover a life-saving treatment, or lost their homes because they were socked with huge medical bills.
Health care reform will help end these terrible losses, but it also provides us with something to gain. By lowering costs and increasing choice, we'll stimulate job growth, restore our economy, and keep wages with working families instead of handing them over to insurance companies.
Just last month, I spoke with a small business owner in Medford who told me that rising health care costs were forcing his company to choose between providing health coverage or laying off employees. Businesses around the country are experiencing the same squeeze, and it means fewer jobs and lower wages for working Americans. In the last decade, health care premiums for the average Oregon family rose by 101 percent, while median earnings rose by only 23.8 percent. It's no coincidence: employers are spending more and more on compensation for their employees, it's just going towards higher insurance premiums instead of higher wages.
Health costs are not only siphoning away money that could go towards higher wages or new hires, they're also making our companies less competitive globally. If you build a car in America, you spend $1,500 on health care benefits. If you build it across the border in Canada, the cost is zero. Indeed, GM spent more on health care last year than it did on steel. That's bad for American business and bad for American jobs.
Working families in Oregon can't afford to sacrifice their jobs and their incomes to the health insurance beast anymore. It's time we get our priorities back in place.
By improving care, increasing choices, and lowering health costs, we can put our businesses and families in the position to thrive.
There's still more work to do as health care reform winds its way through the legislative process, but each step that moves a bill closer to President Obama's desk is a step towards a brighter economic future for Oregon families.

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