18 January 2007

Arnoldcare debate continues

“Arnold-Care” might be a good, moderate solution since it’s bracketed by criticism from the Left and from the Right.

Then again, it may just be a rationalizing, unsustainable plan with little to recommend it, especially after further compromises are made.

The California Nurses Association has certainly launched a non-stop war against it. Curious, considering fondness that organization has for Governor Schwarzenegger. Their president has flamed several editorial pages with salvos against the plan. As has Rose Ann DeMoro, the association’s executive director, and Zenei Cortez, their vice president.

Cortez writes “Why insurers love the new health plan” in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's much-trumpeted health plan is the most ambitious overhaul of the state's healthcare system since ... well, since SB 840, the far simpler, more universal, more comprehensive, single-payer health plan sponsored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, which the governor vetoed last September,” she writes.

“If you're one of the 6.5 million Californians without health coverage, get ready to find a lot of hands in your pocket.”

DeMoro, at Tom Paine, writes: “With ever-escalating premiums, it’s a safe bet that the average family not eligible for the low-income subsidies will opt for the bare bones plan which, Schwarzenegger has recommended, would specify deductibles of up to $10,000.”

In another analysis, Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee writes that the individual mandate plan is more realistic than a single-payer — although the only reason he gives is because Schwarzenegger believes a single-payer would limit choice and innovation, and cause waits and rationing. He doesn’t give any evidence for that.
He does note that it’s an unknown whether numbers of employers might discontinue healthcare coverage, and thus send a huge group of individuals into the state risk pool.

“That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Health insurance and the economy would both be more stable if employers stopped being the middlemen in health care."

Is he talking about a round-about way of reaching single-payer?

"Economic theory says that employers, to recruit good workers, would substitute higher wages for the health care premiums they pay today if they stopped providing insurance as a fringe benefit. But the transition could be rough and uneven. And most people probably wouldn’t trust that it would happen.

“For that reason, the individual mandate is going to be a tough sell for the governor. Skeptics on the right see it as big government. On the left, they see it as a way to shift the burden from employers to workers. But without it, Schwarzenegger’s plan falls apart. He can’t compromise on that point and still pass a law that promises universal coverage.”

Weintraub lost me at the end. Without cost-shifting to the employee, the plan falls apart? And without it he can’t pass a plan that promises universal coverage?

How about the single-payer plan that he vetoed last year?

In the Oakland Tribune, Josh Richmond wrote that at the Martin Luther King breakfast in San Francisco, Gov. Schwarzenegger came to the podium on crutches as an audience member shouted, "Healthcare for people, not insurance companies!"

Richmond also got some heartening quotes from California Democrats, who get it that single-payer can be a winning issue.

“San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson told the crowd nothing short of a single-payer system will do, and Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, warned the audience to beware of any healthcare reform that costs up to a quarter of a worker's paycheck. ‘That's the governor's plan,’ said Leno, who once again is co-sponsoring single-payer universal healthcare legislation.

“Freshman Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, seated at a front table, praised the governor for putting the issue on a front burner, but said ‘those of us on the left who believe healthcare should be a right: It's our responsibility to push our perspective, our agenda. ... The devil's in the details, so let the debate begin.’”

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