Merkley urges health care solution

Democrat Jeff Merkley, completing his eighth month as a U.S. senator from Oregon, said resolving health care and revamping energy policies go hand in hand with reviving the nation’s economy.

“We are not going to put our economy back into a competitive position if we do not figure out our health care policies or address our energy problems,” he said Monday at a meeting with the Statesman Journal editorial board.

“Health care, in its current form, is apt to blowing itself up at a rate of unsustainable cost increases.”

After he unseated two-term Republican Gordon Smith last year, Merkley won assignments to three Senate committees that put him into the middle of those discussions: Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Environment and Public Works; and Banking, Housing and Urban Development.

The health care proposal that emerged from Merkley’s committee, which was headed by Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts until Kennedy’s death last week, is one of four on the table. The House has three, which must be melded into one, and the Senate Finance Committee still is working on its own proposal.

Merkley said a final version is likely to contain a “federal marketplace,” similar to an array of coverage plans from which federal employees can choose now, to guarantee coverage for more people without exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions.