Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Arnold's "Universal Health Care" Looking a Lot Like "Romney Care"

OK, so Ahhnuld the Governator is now calling for universal health care in California. Isn't this good news? Isn't this what we've been calling for all along? After all, isn't this universal coverage?

Well, not quite. (AP Wire)

Union leaders quickly balked at a requirement that all Californians have insurance, calling it a tax on the middle class...
Under the proposal, all Californians must have insurance, although the poorest will be subsidized. Those who go uncovered will be subject to tax penalties.

Now, the Governator wants to penalize people who are not covered. He wants to force everyone to BUY HEALTH INSURANCE. So is this starting to sound familiar? It should... Mitt Romney did something similar in Massachusetts. But can Mitt Romney's prescription for Massachusetts work in California? (LA Times)

Only Massachusetts has required all residents to carry insurance, but California's larger population of uninsured and poor makes Schwarzenegger's goals much more challenging. To pay for the plan, Schwarzenegger proposed placing new fees and obligations on doctors, hospitals, employers and insurers — all powerful lobbies in Sacramento.

Schwarzenegger was widely praised for tackling such a huge issue so comprehensively. But many leading consumer advocates, academics and business leaders said they feared that the governor's proposal was inadequately financed and would shift more responsibility for healthcare to families while unintentionally encouraging businesses to drop or downgrade the coverage they now offer.

Employers with 10 or more workers would have to offer plans that cost them at least 4% of their payroll. Those who refuse would be required to pay an equivalent amount into the state's insurance fund for people with no other option. That mandate, while greeted skeptically by businesses, was criticized as too lax by advocates who said that a majority of companies that now provide insurance already contribute much more money.

"It's the equivalent of setting the minimum wage at $3 an hour," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group.

Those earning more than 2 1/2 times the federal poverty level — a total of $41,500 a year for a family of three — would not receive a subsidy but would still have to buy insurance if their employer did not offer it. The cheapest plan would require families to pay $2,000 a year in premiums, and as much as $10,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs.

OK, so businesses will be required to offer a plan or pay into the state fund. However, the "requirement" is less than what most companies already offer! What will stop companies from "complying with new law" by cutting back the health benefits that they had previously offered? This does not look like much of an improvement from what most Californians already have.

Meanwhile, many Californians will end up paying these exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses. As private employers get a break, working people get a kick in the behind. What about offering a break to the working folks? What about dealing with these spiraling premiums? (LA Times)

Healthcare premiums have been rising at the rate of 8.2% annually, nearly twice the rate of wage growth. Yet employers would pay only 4% of their payroll amounts, something that disturbs both labor and business leaders.

"How will the inevitable shortfall in funding be addressed?" asked Allan Zaremburg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce. "Will the tax have to be doubled in 10 years?"

Wow! If even the leader of the Chamber of Commerce, one of Arnold's best buddies, has issues with Arnold-care, then I must wonder. I must wonder what is wrong with this supposed fix to a broken system. Is this "universal health care" really an improvement over what we already have?

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