Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

20 December, 2005

Another health care initiative

We have yet to see the odometer flip, but already the 2006 ballot initiatives are beginning to trickle in. Reports out of Salem are that documents for a ballot measure coving a statewide universal health care plan have been filed.

Sponsors of the plan left the initiative as a broad mandate, obligating the legislature to fill in the details. Politically, this seems like a pretty shrewd strategy. Opinion polls show that around 65% of Americans favor universal health care, even if that means higher taxes. What scared Oregonians off from a 2002 universal health care measure was the details. No excuses this time.

The business community is already offering up the tired canard of "huge" tax increases to pay for a gigantic new bureaucracy. However, consider this (from Howard Waitzkin, M.D. - At the Front Lines of Medicine):

25% of health care expenses in the United States are administrative expenses. Compare this to 18% for Germany, 16% for France, 12% for Canada, and 6% for the UK, all nations with socialized care systems. So, we're supposed to believe that it's government bureaucrats who are going to burden the sytem with inefficiencies?

Moreover, administrators are the fastest-growing sector of the health care labor force, growing at three times the rate of physicians and other clinical personnel.

Hmm, so let's see, health care costs are spiralling out of control, and the fastest-growing employee category in health care is paper pusher. And it's these paper pushers who are getting their undies in a knot about universal health coverage. Interesting.

I'm down with this ballot measure, but I have to remain realistic about its chances. There will be big money oppo$ition to this, and no doubt the right-wing smear machine will be amped up to make sure that the insurance companies are allowed to continue their racket.


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