The federal government should have made incremental health care reforms instead of “throwing the whole system into chaos,” a Portland doctor running for U.S. Senate said Thursday in Roseburg.
Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon and former Oregon Medical Association president, said the Affordable Care Act has been bad for Oregonians.
“The goal was a laudable one. They wanted to have affordable, high-quality care for everybody, but that’s not what we got. We got a more complex system, with increasing costs. People lost their plans, they lost access to their doctors and their premiums went up,” she said.
Wehby, who has emerged as the frontrunner in the Republican primary to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, stopped at My Coffee & The Wine Experience in Roseburg to huddle with a handful of local Republicans.
Wehby reported raising $1.2 million by the end of April, far more than four other GOP candidates. State Rep. Jason Conger of Bend reported raising $360,385. Wehby also has drawn the most fire from Democrats, another sign of frontrunner status. At My Coffee, Wehby was followed and filmed by two people she said were Democrats looking for missteps or unflattering photos.
Her stop in Roseburg was a brief interlude between campaign events in Grants Pass and Eugene, part of a statewide tour of 16 Oregon cities.
Wehby did not step inside to shake hands with potential voters who filled the coffee shop. She was greeted outside the coffee shop by state Rep. Tim Freeman, a candidate for Douglas County commissioner, and House District 2 candidate Dallas Heard and a few others.
She took time to answer questions from a News-Review reporter and was briefed on Oregon & California Railroad lands by Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson.
Freeman said he wanted to meet Wehby, but wasn’t endorsing anyone in the primary.
Wehby said people should be allowed to buy catastrophic insurance plans and make tax-free contributions to health savings accounts rather than being forced to buy more comprehensive policies.
“A lot of people don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars a month for these big bells and whistles plans when they know that they’re not going to be taking advantage of it,” she said.
She said the mandate forces younger people to subsidize the health care needs of older people.
“It’s really just cost-shifting. It’s generational theft,” she said.
Wehby said individuals likely to have big medical bills should be placed in a subsidized pool. She also said people should be able to buy insurance plans across state lines, which would make the market more competitive and drop prices.
Wehby has been under attack from party conservatives and right-to-life groups for her stance on abortion. She has said she is personally opposed to abortion, but that the government should take a hands-off approach to decisions made between a woman and her doctor.
“As Republicans, we believe in the individual. We believe in controlling our own lives and having small government,” she said.
“I’ve been able to stay on message, and I think people agree with me. They realize that things are out of control, and we’ve got to change it.”
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.