Health Equity, the Underinsured, and the Advantages of Single-Payer
The inaugural Universal Health Care Work Group met last week and it was energizing to see so many medical, community, labor, and business allies from around the state on the committee and in the audience.
Health Care for All - WA has three Board Members on the 33 member Universal Health Care Work Group: Kelly Powers (Exchange Consumer), Ronnie Shure (Pharmacist) and Sherry Weinberg, MD (Pediatrician) and several supporters from HCFA-WA Spokane are also members of the Work Group: including Denny Dellwo (former legislator who chaired the WA State House of Representative Health Care Committee which achieved Basic Health Care in the 90s) and Lynnette Vehrs (RN, President of the Washington Nurses Association).
Rep. Nicole Macri (LD-43) , Senators John Braun (LD-20) and Emily Randall (LD-26) attended the meeting. Rep. Schmick (LD-9) was not in attendance. See the Work Group roster.
After discussing the Work Group’s directive from the legislature in the Budget Proviso, there were two presentations: Health Coverage in Washington State and the Washington State Institute of Public Policy (WSIPP) Reports on Single-Payer & Universal Health Care Systems. Watch the entire TVW recording of the meeting or the Health Coverage presentation is at 1:06:16 and the WSIPP Report begins at 2:21:00.
Here are key takeaways from one HCFA-WA Work Group member, Kelly Powers, Washington Health Benefits Exchange Consumer (the ACA) serving on the Universal Health Care Work Group, the Vice-President for Health Care for All -WA representing on the Health Care is a Human Right Steering Committee:
1) Work Group members offered the following additional Single-Payer advantages that were not presented during the WSIPP presentation:
★ Controls costs by negotiating reimbursement rates and drug prices
★ Alleviates the high costs of delayed health care
★ Reduces the need for expensive legal action to recover medical costs
★ Ends medical debt
★ Ends job lock, defined as when an employee is trapped in a job because they are afraid of losing health insurance
2) Information about underinsured Washingtonians, and the impact of health care expenses on the family budget was lacking. We believe the Work Group members need this information to inform our work.
3) The report profiled four countries “to provide a mix of single- and multi-payer systems, with varying degrees of reliance on market incentives and competition.” The only true single-payer system profiled is the Canadian system. Work Group members raised concerns that single-payer countries were left out that would be instructive to establishing a universal health care system in Washington.
4) There are important things to learn from initiatives around the state, such as Accountable Communities of Health and tribal health systems.
5) Several Work Group members brought up health equity and affordability. Note: “Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.” -- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
6) Members encouraged the Work Group to be culturally attuned.
7) Public testimony urged the Work Group to look at the Basic Health Plan work in the 1990s to see what could be learned and repurposed.
8) An oncologist from Spokane also gave public testimony stating that patients and doctors agree -- our health care system is broken.
9) The Work Group needs to hear from you! We need more voices of people struggling with our current health care system.
All in all, it was a solid start at laying out the issues and coming together to work through the challenges.
For more information about the Universal Health Care Work Group and the first meeting, go here.
updated November 8, 2019