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

(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.

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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. (Read more Ron Wyden stories.)

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