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From the President's Desk


Health Care Reform: To Universal, and...BEYOND

by Ronnie Shure, President
Winter 2023

I am not paraphrasing Buzz Lightyear. I am just emphasizing the message from John Santa, a member of the Oregon Joint Task Force on Universal Health Care. When members of Oregon’s Task Force shared their final report with the Washington Universal Health Care Commission, Dr. Santa described their robust recommendations as preparing for a moonshot. I remember President Kennedy speaking of moonshots by saying “...we will do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard...” How can we define the term “universal” when we talk about improving the US healthcare system? We start by saying “everybody in, nobody out.”

We start with financial issues. We spend much more than other developed countries, so we look at ways to control costs. The US healthcare system is complicated and not very transparent. We are evaluating ways to limit the increases in the cost of hospital visits, specialty care, long-term care, prescription drugs, medical equipment, and health insurance. This is only the first stop on our journey - make health care affordable and prevent the cost from being a burden on our health.

We know that comprehensive benefits are needed to maintain our quality of life. We can make it more difficult to maintain a high quality of life when we limit care for mental health, substance use disorders, vision impairment, hearing loss, and dental treatment. We put a high value on reproductive and sexual health benefits. We realize that treatment of children and youth provide important benefits. We must pack our luggage for this journey with the most benefits that we can carry on our voyage. 

The health disparities in our country have to be addressed. We must address the health impacts of structural and interpersonal racism and protect vulnerable populations against discrimination. We can develop health care services with an equity lens and focus on community-based organizations to lead the way. We will only improve the health of our community if we address the social determinants of health as we move to each stage of our journey on healthcare reform. 

The route to health care reform must include access to high quality health care. Our society has improved its communication services dramatically, so we have the pathways to provide culturally and linguistically competent services for anyone with disabilities. We must navigate a seamless system to provide everybody with the information and networks to make decisions about our health care. After all, health care is a human right. 

Washington state is one of the national leaders in this journey. Join Health Care for All - Washington to help support the actions that will lead to universal health care...and beyond.

View prior reports From the President's Desk.