Single Payer in High Gear in PA
The race is on in Pennsylvania because they are seriously talking about Single Payer Healthcare. And though they are moving to try to eliminate ERISA roadblocks to get there, some are prepared to challenge the laws even if the US Congress will not act:
My state is moving closer and closer to passing single payer, as this excellent history of recent developments in the statewide movement explains.
It had been a good year for Single-Payer in Pennsylvania already.
HealthCare4ALLPA, the organization leading the fight (full disclosure:
the author is an unpaid officer of that organization and an unpaid
member of the Board of Directors) to enact single-payer healthcare in
the Keystone State. Our Bill, HB 1660 and SB 400 was picking up steam
(one blogger, in describing the scope of the bill, observed "you will
never see a more comprehensive plan."), and had been endorsed by City
Councils in Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, West Reading,
and Wilkes Barre, as well as by the Allegheny County Council. Together
those councils represent more than 3 million people, about a quarter of
the population of Pennsylvania. A study of the cost of employee
healthcare benefits paid by the combined governments and school boards
within our state had documented a savings of nearly $2.3 billion
dollars if the bill werer passed, and the study was getting noticed.
Our quest for funds to commission an Economic Impact Study that would
validate the benefits of instituting our bill were beginning to bear
fruit. In October more than a thousand people -- primarily from all
over Pennsylvania, but augmented by advocates from Rhode Island, New
York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio and even
Washingtron State who journeyed to Harrisburg in a show of solidarity
-- gathered in the Capitol Rotunda on a Tuesday workday morning to
demonstrate for the passage of our bill.
As I wrote about here,
the bill for statewide single payer had a hearing late last year. Not
only that, but the hearing was led by Republican State Senator Don
White, and that's not even the full extent of the bipartisan support of
this. And Governor Ed Rendell has also pledged to sign the bill! And
all five Democratic candidates for governor have expressed support of
the bill! And both Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak have said that they
intend to introduce bills in Congress that would end ERISA and make it
much easier for states to establish single payer systems!
As far as the ERISA laws, here is a little more from a comment sent to Rossl, author of the diary excerpt above, by the author of the original OP Ed piece, Jerry Policoff, that is revving up single payer activists:
I am Jerry Policoff, the author of the original piece at Op Ed News.
I was planning to cross post this at Kos tomorrow, but I am glad Rossi
beat me to it. The original is almost 2,000 words with lots of links,
so if you are very interested you might want to follow Rossi's link and
read the original.
Regarding the ERISA questions, We believe our bill does not violate
ERISA and would withstand a challenge, but we can use an ERISA waiver
because a lawsuit would slow us down and cost a lot of money to defend.
ERISA forbids states from forcing employers to provide health benefits
or from pubishing employers who fail to provide healthcare. Our
single-payer plan relieves employers from any responsibility for
providing healthcare and assesses all employers a payroll tax to help
pay for a Medicare-type system that administers healthcare for
everyone. In the process it saves most employers a lot of money.
You can learn more at www.healthcare4allpa.org, and feel free to contribute. We have lots of passion but very little money.
I specifically asked Rossi "what can we do to help you, in PA, make this go all the way?" Response:
If you don't live in PA,
spread the word about this and donate at http://healthcare4allpa.org - that's all I can think of for now.
Because if we do nothing we will have nothing but ourselves to blame if this does not go the distance.
For those of you that may not get how important it is for everyone to get off the starting line at full speed in Pennsylvania? Take a look at how the race to Medicare, the single payer healthcare in Canada, started:
The beginning of coverage
It was not until 1946 that the first Canadian province introduced near universal health coverage. Saskatchewan had long suffered a shortage of doctors, leading to the creation of municipal doctor
programs in the early twentieth century in which a town would subsidize
a doctor to practice there. Soon after, groups of communities joined to
open union hospitals
under a similar model. There had thus been a long history of government
involvement in Saskatchewan health care, and a significant section of
it was already controlled and paid for by the government. In 1946, Tommy Douglas' Co-operative Commonwealth Federation government in Saskatchewan passed the Saskatchewan Hospitalization Act,
which guaranteed free hospital care for much of the population. Douglas
had hoped to provide universal health care, but the province did not
have the money.
In 1950, Alberta created a program similar to Saskatchewan's.
Alberta, however, created Medical Services (Alberta) Incorporated
(MS(A)I) in 1948 to provide prepaid health services. This scheme
eventually provided medical coverage to over 90% of the population.
In 1957, the federal government passed the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act
to fund 50% of the cost of such programs for any provincial government
that adopted them. The HIDS Act outlined five conditions: public
administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and
accessibility. These remain the pillars of the Canada Health Act.
By 1961, all ten provinces had agreed to start HIDS Act programs. In
Saskatchewan, the act meant that half of their current program would
now be paid for by the federal government. Premier Woodrow Lloyd
decided to use this freed money to extend the health coverage to also
include physicians. Despite the sharp disagreement of the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons, Lloyd introduced the law in 1962 after defeating the Saskatchewan Doctors' Strike in July.
Medical Care Act
The Saskatchewan program proved a success and the federal government of Lester B. Pearson, pressured by the New Democratic Party (NDP) who held the balance of power, introduced the Medical Care Act
in 1966 that extended the HIDS Act cost-sharing to allow each province
to establish a universal health care plan. It also set up the Medicare system. In 1984, the Canada Health Act was passed, which prohibited user fees and extra billing by doctors. In 1999, the prime minister and most premiers reaffirmed in the Social Union Framework Agreement
that they are committed to health care that has "comprehensiveness,
universality, portability, public administration and accessibility."