Multiple States Work Toward Universal Health Insurance in Non-Partisan Ways, While Federal Government Pushes More Off Health Care
The above map represents nation-wide coordination for universal health care for the 2000 election. It's pretty much everybody. Meanwhile, Democrats and the Republicans ignore their citizens and increasingly repress their health, ecological soundness, and destroy their economies in the name of corporate welfare.
Below is an interesting article on how such health care concerns are bubbling up to force the issue for more affirmitive situtions in local states. The different local strategies popping up across the United States for universal health care--and the mechanisms in which the Democrat-Republicans attempt to shove the pressure into existing corporate sponsorship forms are a nice window into the politics of gatekeeping and power. The Massachusetts style "solution" to health care--PENALIZING people for NOT buying private insurance (i.e., for NOT subsidizing corporate insurance) is a poor method for attempting to aid people and provide health insurance encouragements. It sounds like just more corporate subsidization instead of really providing for a concern of universal health coverage. However, as the article states:
"This is probably about as close as you can get to universal [in Massachusetts, in current political frameworks]," said Paul Ginsburg, an economist who is president of the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington. "It's definitely going to be inspiring to other states about how there was this compromise. They found a way to get to a major expansion of coverage that people could agree on. For a conservative Republican, this is individual responsibility. For a Democrat, this is government helping those that need help."
However, when polls show that no one supports the policies of the Republicans or Democrats in the United States, what if you would like to see both these parties wither away, because they have lost their electoral basis entirely?   
Since no one supports these gatekeeping parties in practice, citizens and physicians have been organizing by local state instead.
For instance, there is the The Consumers for Affordable Health Care Coalition which advocates for a single-payer health care system within the state of Maine. "It is one of hundreds of state-wide organizations seeking universal health care." A second is the Public Campaign, "a grassroots campaign trying to inform communities of the benefits of Universal Health Care. Its objectives extend beyond promoting the universal health care system, as well, but the success of a universal health care system is among the organization's top priorities." A third is the The National Labor Party, which
"believes that the United States' current health care system is a poorly regulated, corporate-dominated system that eliminates choice, erodes care, and inflates administrative costs while boosting profits and CEO compensation. According to the Labor Party, health care is a critical social good that demands collective interests prevail over private gain. This interest group is committed to a single payer system to achieve universal and effective health care for all. Members are currently circulating petitions and mobilizing voters is its main purpose. They are trying to get voters to support the Health Care Trust Bill."
A fourth groups is Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), with
"over 9,000 members in chapters across the United States. Members of this non-profit volunteer organization believe that access to high quality health care is a right of all people and should be provided as a public service, rather than bought as a commodity. According to the PNHP, this single-payer system is the only solution to solving the United States' health care problems. The PHNP also believes that too much profits are going to insurance companies and believes savings from a universal health care program could amount to 13 to 30 percent. The PNHP published the first major single payer proposal in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1989." [*]
The tragic irony is that this was a move on the local level in response to the Bush Administration kicking people off Medicare--while it was recently reported that multiple more billions are being given to Halliburton's war machine. It was estimated that 52% of all Iraq spending has gone to enrich Halliburton.)
Interesting, nonetheless that they are working together on the local level to take care of issues of health, something that typically is more approriately addressed locally than federally in the bioregional state. That is particularly clear when the Bush Administration has moved to kick more people off health care federally, while of course putting more and more corporations on life support... (I have nothing against Republicans: I just ask them to be actual conservative Republicans supporting local democracy like they say they are--instead of federal one-party-state police state theocrats. A simple glance at why the remaining small support of Bush--only around 33-34%--should abandon him like the plague is very clear with these ten points why the Right should leave Bush).
Certainly one bioregional state solution would be more germane toward all this widely popular organizing for protecting health care: institutionalize a watershed based districting for elections. This will remove the gatekeeping political parties and their gerrymandered districts (the only way Democratic and Republican party dominance is maintained instead of by clean elections). It would make elections more competitive, allow for voters to have more choices, and in doing that, it forces all parties to be more representative of the local intermixed health, ecological, and economic interest in a particular area. Health care--the true will of the people--will follow more smoothly with a changed formal institutional appratus removes the gatekeeping will of the uncompetitively elected (and unauditably elected, like they prefer) Democrats and Republicans.
Massachusetts Set to Offer Universal Health Insurance
By PAM BELLUCK
(New York Times)
April 4, 2006
BOSTON, April 4 — Massachusetts is poised to become the first state to provide nearly universal health care coverage after the state legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill today that Gov. Mitt Romney says he will sign.
The bill does what health experts say no other state has yet been able to do: provide a mechanism for all of its citizens to obtain health insurance. It accomplishes that in a way that experts say combines several different methods and proposals from across the political spectrum, apportioning the cost among businesses, individuals and the government.
"This is probably about as close as you can get to universal," said Paul Ginsburg, an economist who is president of the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington. "It's definitely going to be inspiring to other states about how there was this compromise. They found a way to get to a major expansion of coverage that people could agree on. For a conservative Republican, this is individual responsibility. For a Democrat, this is government helping those that need help."
The bill, which resulted after months of wrangling between legislators and the governor, requires all Massachusetts residents to obtain health coverage by July 1, 2007.
Individuals who can afford private insurance will be penalized on their state income taxes if they do not buy it. Government subsidies to private insurance plans will enable more of the working poor to be able to afford insurance and will expand the number of children who are eligible for free coverage. And businesses with more than 10 workers that do not provide insurance will be assessed a fee of up to $295 per employee per year.
All told, the plan is projected to cover 515,000 uninsured people within three years, about 95 percent of the state's uninsured population, legislators said.
"It is not a typical Massachusetts-Taxachusetts, oh just crazy liberal plan," said Stuart H. Altman, dean of the Heller Graduate School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. "It isn't that at all. It is a pretty moderate approach and that's what's impressive about it. It tried to borrow and blend a lot of different pieces."
Many states, including Massachusetts, have been wrestling for years with how to cover the uninsured, and several states have come close, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Hawaii passed a universal access law in 1974 requiring employers to offer health care coverage for employees working 20 hours or more a week, but 3 percent of people remain uncovered. Attempts at covering all citizens in Minnesota and Vermont in 1992 and in Massachusetts in 1988 fell flat a few years later when, in the mid-1990's, [even] the language in the bills concerning universal coverage was repealed. [The U.S. is still very much a corporate state hurting its people instead of aiding it.]
In 2003, Maine enacted a law that significantly broadened insurance coverage and combined employer payments with expanded government programs. That year, California enacted a law that required employer contributions, but it was repealed in a referendum in 2004.
The Massachusetts bill approved today was hammered out from proposals and input from Democratic legislators, Mr. Romney, a Republican, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat, insurers, academics, businesses, hospitals, and advocates for the poor, including religious leaders.
They were motivated in part by a threat by the federal government to eliminate $385 million in federal Medicaid money unless the state reduced the number of uninsured people. The state was supposed to have the bill completed last January, but state officials said they were confident that the federal government would approve of the bill approved today.
"It's a balanced bill," said State Senator Robert E. Travaglini, the majority leader. "Whenever you can have the medical community, the business community and the advocates all applauding our efforts, I think that's indicative of a successful exercise. This is going to be a template for the rest of the nation to follow."
Governor Romney, who is considering running for president in 2008, said in an interview today that the bill, passed by a legislature that is 85 percent Democratic, was "95 percent of what I proposed."
He said, "This is really a landmark for our state because this proves at this stage that we can get health insurance for all our citizens without raising taxes and without a government takeover. The old single-payer canard is gone."
In particular, Mr. Romney pushed the idea of the "individual mandate," requiring people who can afford health insurance to buy it, in the same way that drivers are required to have auto insurance. The bill makes it possible for employers to enable many of those people to use pretax dollars, saving them 25 percent or more.
One element that Mr. Romney and some legislators did not want was the fee for employers who do not provide health insurance. For several months the bill seemed stalled because the state House and Senate leaders could not agree on the issue of charging businesses or on how much to charge them. One proposal of an $800-per-employee charge was reduced to a maximum of $295 that will be reduced as more and more people become insured, Mr. Travaglini said.
Because the bill is part of a budget bill, Mr. Romney has line-item veto power and he said today that he would likely change the business fee provision in some way or veto it before signing the bill. Still, he did not seem that concerned about it, saying he had been most concerned that the fee not be a payroll tax, as had been originally proposed. [i.e., he was mad more money was not being sucked from the working poor, who were then punished for not supporting exorbitant corporate insurance! His 'electorate' so called is obviously the immortal beings called corporations, instead of citizens.]
Mr. Travaglini said that if Mr. Romney vetoed the business fee, the legislature would override it.