Weidner working toward health card system
The House’s new Democratic leadership has assigned Rep. Jim Weidner to two committees, down from three last session, when Republicans and Democrats shared control of an evenly divided chamber. They are Health Care and Energy and Environment.
Weidner said he requested the Health Care appointment. He wanted it so badly, he said, he said he’d be willing to accept an appointment to any other committee or committees in exchange, which is how he ended up with the Energy and Environment appointment.
Despite the fact control has passed to the Democrats, Weidner said he’s hopeful the House can continue to display a spirt of bipartisanship. And the new leadership made a gesture in that direction by offering some key assignments to Republicans — an unusual move.
“I can get a lot of little things done by building relationships on the other side of the aisle,” Weidner said.
Having established liaisons with both Republicans and Democrats is one of the advantages of coming in as a seasoned legislator, he said. “When you’re in the minority, you have to have relationships to get stuff done,” he said.
While it’s common for legislators to serve on three committees, not just two, Weidner said he’s planning to introduce a major new health initiative this session which he expects to take up the lion’s share of his time. He said what he’s proposing is an Oregon Health Card. Similar to the Oregon Trail Card it bestows on food stamp participants.
The premise is that people need to accept more responsibility for their own care. For him, that means treating government money like it’s their own.
With the card, people would have a pre-set number of free doctor and emergency room visits. After that, a co-pay would kick in.
He said he’d also like to see doctors reimbursed at a higher rate for Medicaid patients.
“For me, health care is big because it’s the elephant in the room,” Weidner said.
Weidner said he’s also interested in a proposal broached with the Oregon Education Association to secure $6.4 billion for education this year and fix future growth at 3 percent a year. It said that would smooth out wild fluctuations based on economic conditions and other factors.
“I’m looking at it more as a parent,” he said. “How do we make sure we can take care of things at our schools?”