Washington State Senator Supports Government Health Care Monopoly

Published February 1, 2008

(Chicago, Illinois – February 1, 2008) On Monday, January 21, Washington state Sen. Karen Keiser (D), chair of the Senate Health Committee, unveiled legislation that would put government in control of the state’ health care system.

The senator’s plan–based on “Healthy Wisconsin,” a proposal Wisconsin elected officials rejected last year–would virtually eliminate private insurance and private health care. Washingtonians would be forced to accept government-mandated insurance coverages and health providers, and to receive care in certain regionally based, government-mandated clinics. The measure would be paid for by increasing taxes on businesses and workers.

Experts contacted by The Heartland Institute offered the following comments about the proposed legislation. You may quote from this statement or contact the experts directly at the phone numbers and email addresses provided below.

“There is no such thing as a ‘healthy Washington’ or ‘healthy Wisconsin,’ as no one can collectivize good health.

“What we see are attempts by these states to offset the high costs of private insurance, made so in large part because the ‘progressive’ legislatures of these states have mandated that insurance plans carry very expensive items. Throwing in new payment plans without doing anything about the cost pressures on the supply side does nothing to help people of those states, especially in the long run.

“These are ‘feel good’ initiatives that in the end will make the problem worse.”

William L. Anderson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Economics
Frostburg State University
[email protected]

“[Healthy Washington] has absolutely no chance of going anywhere. The Democrats in the legislature don’t support it and the governor (also a Democrat) doesn’t support it. Even if it were to pass it would be thrown out as an ERISA violation. And if it survived ERISA and went into effect it would still be a lousy idea.

“It would require that no one ever pay a premium and no one would ever pay for a health care service. So, consumers would no longer be customers. We would all have to rely on whatever the powers-that-be decide is good for us. It is yet another power grab by politicians who are hungry to control our lives.”

Greg Scandlen
Consumers for Health Care Choices
[email protected]

“SB 6221, the proposed Health Insurance Partnership, would represent a massive concentration of power in the hands of 14 board members appointed by the governor. This is NOT a public/private partnership, as claimed by the sponsors, since the state would hold all the cards.

“The board would define what health coverage you can have, it would choose your co-pays, deductible, and out-of-pocket expenses, it would define the ‘zero premium’ plan mentioned in the bill, and it would set an arbitrary 12 percent cap on insurers’ administrative expenses.

“The bill would replace the state’s 51 health mandates, which already add 20 percent to the cost of health coverage, with one super-mandate. Most workers would lose their current health coverage and be forced into a government-run program.

“Section 17 of the bill would create massive new payroll taxes to pay for the plan. Workers would pay up to 4 percent of their pay, with employers paying up to 12 percent of payroll. This means, of course, that workers would really pay the full 16 percent, since the employer’s portion is simply part of the cost of hiring the worker. This comes on top of the 15 percent workers already pay in Social Security taxes. The result of new payroll taxes would be to suppress investment and job creation, just at a time when our state economy may be entering a recession.”

“Instead of creating a new state-run monopoly, lawmakers should consider a more efficient ‘partnership’ to connect people with health coverage: the Internet. A dozens Web sites, like eHealthinsurance.com, already list hundreds of health care plans, many at very affordable prices. But the law prevents Washington residents from choosing plans based in other states.

“Ending the ban on out-of-state insurance would give Washingtonians access to a national market with a wide variety of high-quality plans at low prices.”

Paul Guppy
Vice President for Research
Washington Policy Center
[email protected]

“As happens too often, politicians think they can take our money and spend it better than we can ourselves. In health care this is often taken to the extreme, as Senator Keiser’s bill proposes, to take every last dollar you spend on your health care away from you.

“But the problem in U.S. health care is not that the government doesn’t have enough of our money, but that the patient does not have enough. It would be unacceptable in any other area of American life to allow the government and private third parties to control 96 cents of every dollar we spend on food, housing, or transportation. But we allow it in health care. A tax hike is not health reform: Real health reform is giving health care dollars back to the patients who need it.”

John R. Graham
Director, Health Care Studies
Pacific Research Institute
[email protected]

“Once upon a time people believed that saying the magic words could make things happen. Now they believe that saying everyone has health insurance will make people have access to care. The fact is government-run health care systems inevitably restrict access to care.”

Michael Tanner
Director, Health and Welfare Studies
Cato Institute
[email protected]

“The good people of the state of Washington need to know this is anything but a voluntary ‘partnership.’

“That same rhetoric was used here in Wisconsin in an attempt to hide the fact that this is nothing more than a government takeover of health care. These schemes have not worked anywhere they have been tried. If the liberals in this country are so determined to test out their bad ideas, I would be far happier if they confined their efforts to the coasts.

“When Massachusetts, California, and Washington ruin their health care systems, the rest of us may finally be able to implement free-market reforms that will make a difference.”

Leah Vukmir
Wisconsin State Representative
[email protected]

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