In Budget Deal, Lobbyists Win Surprising Battle

Ron Wyden's voucher plan scrapped—though that won't save money
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2011 11:12 AM CDT
Ron Wyden listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in this file photo.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Soon after Democrats and Republicans settled on a deal to avoid a government shutdown, Ron Wyden got a call from Harry Reid. “You lost free-choice vouchers,” he said. Translation: Somehow in the budget scuffle, those involved agreed out of the blue to kill a plan Wyden had fought hard for that would allow employees to opt out of their employer-provided health care and buy a plan of their choosing with an employer-financed voucher, the New York Times explains.

The plan would have had no effect on the deficit—in fact, the CBO found that it could save money over the next four years. But it was a major target of lobbyists for both big business groups and unions, who fretted that if too many young workers opted out, it would drive up costs for older ones. A John Boehner spokesman said Republicans had attacked the provision “because it costs jobs,” and Democrats admit that they didn’t fight very hard for it. “This is a textbook case of the special interests prevailing—Exhibit A,” Wyden says.

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