PORTLAND, ORE - The following statement is from Regence BlueCross BlueShield President and CEO Mark Ganz. It is in response to the passage of the Senate health bill:

Regence strongly supports efforts to fix our nation's broken health care system. With the Christmas Eve passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the United States Senate has taken an important step forward on the long and difficult road to reform.

For years, Regence has firmly believed that all Americans must have affordable coverage and access to quality care; insurers must drop barriers to coverage; medical care must become more efficient and economical; and the entire system must be simpler and more transparent. For the most part, these principles are embraced in the Senate bill.

Ultimately, the success or failure of reform will be determined by whether it is economically sustainable over time. This is where we believe there is room for significant improvement in the Senate bill.

We believe that some provisions in the bill are likely to increase costs for families and employers at a time when they are already struggling with spiraling costs in a difficult economy. The requirement to purchase coverage must be strengthened, young people must be properly incented to participate and taxes that would increase premiums must be removed.

Regence's deep commitment to improving the system is unwavering. We are devoted to health care reform that provides quality coverage to all Americans, addresses the fundamental cost drivers that make coverage increasingly unaffordable in both the public and private sector, and ensures economic sustainability for our nation.