Universal Health Care for Washington

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Hot on the heels of passing R-67, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is now trying to pass universal health care for everyone in the state of Washington.

Now, I go in skeptical, for two reasons: first, I despise the idea of universal health care, and second, Kreidler has already proven he is a bit loose with the truth.

And I wasn't disappointed. Well, I was, but only because I wasn't.

On Upfront with Robert Mak, Kreidler described the plan for state-controlled coverage for catastrophic care, "something over 10 or 20 thousand dollars in a given year, along some minimal level of what might be considered preventive such as an annual physical, immunizations, cancer screening, that type of minimal level, guaranteeing for everybody in the state of Washington that level of health care."

Mak's first question was about cost. Kreidler responded, "well it's not cheap, that's for certain, but we're all paying for it right now, it's not as if we're adding new money to the system; what we're doing is making sure that we have some form of assessment so that it's fair and it's equitable and broad-based, and whatever mechanism that might be, payroll tax or whatever it might be, is essentially supplanting what we're paying for already."

When Mak asked about employer-offered care, Kreidler responded, "I think what employers will find ... is that it's going to be easier for them to provide routine health care by virtue of the fact that the major medical -- the unexpected, catastrophic-type costs -- are taken care of."

Kreidler added, "this is going to be done ... all the way through private insurance ... if you like the insurance you have today, keep it and stay with it ... you will effectively have a regular routine health insurance, and then you would have the catastrophic coverage that is guaranteed to everybody in the state of Washington."

Wow. So, to recap to this point, based on what Kreidler said:

1. It won't cost any more money than what it costs right now. Raise your hand if you actually believe this. Then slap yourself with it.

2. It won't actually replace employer care, because it is not complete. It just covers most reasons you would go to the doctor, not all. And Kreidler thinks that it will free up money by your employer to use for expanded health care or other benefits for you. If you believe this and your hand is still upraised, slap yourself again. (Not even Kreidler believes this, since he already said we're not adding new money to the system.)

3. If you have an out-of-state employer, as I do, then you're in even worse shape: there is virtually no chance that I'll get any increased benefit or salary adjustment due to decreased health care cost to the company. In fact, I'll probably have to pay the same amount for my health care, because it's a group cost: every employee in every state pays the same, so chances are, people like me will be paying twice as much -- the same as before, plus the new taxes -- for health care.

4. If you want to "opt out" you're in the same boat: you still have to pay the taxes, of course. Plus, Kreidler also wants to try again to get control over the individual coverage market, which means you'll probably have a lot fewer choices there.

5. It will likely require an income/payroll tax. Rage ... growing ...

6. It applies to everyone in Washington, apparently including non-citizens, and people here illegally.

7. It is a separate insurance policy. Not only will this be a logistical nightmare, with your insurance policies battling out which policy covers something -- and yes, this will happen even if it is the same insurance company, because the policies are paid by two different payers -- but it relies on the private insurance companies actually deciding to play this new, complicated, game. Don't count on it; the companies might decide to just not play. You might lose your insurance company.

Feel free to add to the list.

One thing I don't know is how much control the governor has over any of this. Basically, how much can Governor Rossi do to help fix the problems? slashdot.org slashdot.org

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