This afternoon, I went to a presentation by Healthcare for All – WA. These folks have been crusading for single-payer health care for as long as I’ve been cognizant of health care reform as an issue. (That’s a long time.) They sense an opportunity this year to at least get some hearings on legislation that would create a form of single-payer health care at the state level, and that’s what the meeting was about. They’re encouraging everyone to contact their legislators to support hearings for a bill to create the Washington Health Security Trust – WHST.
Although today’s speakers talked as though there is bipartisan support for the latest bills, I didn’t see any Republicans listed as sponsors on either the House Bill – HB 1026, or Senate Bill – SB 5701. Oh, well. Perhaps some Republicans voiced concern about people in their districts who lack access to health care. Or maybe there’s an R who really does support the Trust but just won’t go on record yet.
We were encouraged to fill out post cards at the meeting expressing our support for hearings about the bill, but I like to at least glance at a bill before contacting my lawmakers. That was especially true today given the vagueness of the presentation. Some of the vagueness is due to the fact that many of the specifics of how the Trust would operate would be determined during the implementation process if the law is enacted.
At least today’s presenters avoided one of my pet peeves: touting single-payer as free healthcare. A national bill would prohibit payments for premiums or other cost-sharing provisions. Our state bill anticipates that people over a certain income would make a monthly payment to the trust. Initial funding would come from employer contributions. If, as hoped, a variety of federal health programs blend with the Trust in the future, those dollars would go directly to the Trust.
I have trouble being optimistic about single-payer health reform, but I’m pleased with some aspects of this effort. 1) No one can call it free. 2) The bill identifies many things that need to happen for this plan to work. At the very least, I would happily support hearings so that supporters, and especially opponents, can speak publicly about their concerns. If there are no hearings, no one is on the record with their reasons for opposing the bill. The public needs to know who opposes this and why.
Remember John McCain’s references to “regular order” when he opposed killing Obamacare last summer? Regular Order means public hearings! (Unfortunately, I also remember his support for gutting the individual mandate as part of the tax law changes. A little Regular Order could have helped there as well.)
Our legislature has provided a nice way for individuals to express support, opposition, or concerns about any bill via their website. Start here at the beginning. Then click Bill Information in the menu on the left. Enter just the numbers of the bill you are interested in e.g. 1026 for HB 2016 or 5701 for SB 5701. This gets you to a page with information about that bill.
From this page, you can see the bill’s sponsors, progress (if any) on the bill, links to the text of the bill or a brief digest, and links to make comments or get email updates if anything happens with the bill. Unfortunately, the comment link asks for your address, then only provides the names of your senator or representatives as recipients. You can try the hotline: 800.562.6000 (limited hours), but I’m not sure how they direct calls this year.
If you’re already skilled at all this, good for you. If you’re not, click around on the legislature’s website and learn how it works. Voting is great, but rarely sufficient to get what you want!
Related post: Seriously, Pramila. Free Health Care?