DMI Blog

Elana Levin

Everybody in the Pool! (wading into universal health care)

DMI's Marketplace of Ideas event on Fair Share Health Care this Monday made a real splash. Our guest Maryland State Senator Gloria Lawlah sees Fair Share as a first step towards protecting the health and stability of all Americans via universal care. Senator Lawlah said that Fair Share "addresses a symptom- it does not address the illness, which is our country's inability to give everyone some kind of healthcare". But passing Fair Share was a necessary first step by bringing businesses to the table (and directly helping a lot of struggling people in an immediate and direct way).

Dan Cantor - Executive Director of the Working Families Party explained while we do need to sever the link between health insurance and employment we must first "get the firms that are taking the low-road into the water- then we can talk about universal healthcare". What began as a talk on successful Fair Share legislation passed in Maryland transitioned into a look at how the bill can be used as a tactic to win the fight for universal healthcare.

Moderating once again, Andrea asked the panel my favorite question: What is the strategy to get more of the private sector engaged in demanding national healthcare for their workers?

Senator Lawlah said she was pleasantly surprised to find that most business interests didn't form a wall of resistance to the Maryland Fair Share bill because businesses know they "can no longer afford to pay the healthcare tab for the nation" and they recognize that by having companies pay into Medicaid when they don't offer coverage they are helping to move America towards a national universal health plan. Could we be reaching enlightenment at last?

In her answer New York State Senator Diane Savino made the central argument that companies stand to benefit from a nationalized plan - it would save them money in the long run. Dr. Jon Cohen, Chief Medical Officer of the North Shore LIJ Health Care system and guest questioner gave the example of Toyota opening up a plant in Canada instead of in the US because in Canada Toyota wouldn't have to worry about providing health coverage for their employees giving them one less expense. Savino was pleased to find that despite a publicly, knee-jerk reaction against progressive legislation in general, individual members of the New York Business Council had admitted to her confidentially that they thought Fair Share is good for business in the long run. If only we could get more companies to come out of the closet on that one! Employees and companies would both be a lot healthier.

Thank goodness for John Catsimatidis, owner of Gristedes for being on the vanguard of business leaders supporting Fair Share. He firmly stated time and again that Fair Share is not anti-business legislation. In terms of recruiting more of Castimatidis' brethren for the cause, Dan Cantor promises that getting more business on board is a central part of the Working Families Party's plan. But does he believe that the bill can pass? He insists that Senate Leader Joe Bruno will be in favor of whatever will help him keep his slim majority in the State Senate and based on today's vote in Westchester NY, it looks like Fair Share will be real popular in some of those hotly contested suburbs.

Among my favorite quotes from the talk:

Dan Cantor "The Bush administration thinks health insurance is a problem - if people have it, they'll use it!"
"Is getting people healthcare worth dealing with some not so good people to get it through?" he asks himself (and the audience) in reference to the D grade of the WFP's co-sponsor, New York State Senator Nick Spano, on DMI's "Fighting for New York's MIddle Class: 2001-2005 NYS Legislative Scorecard."

On the hotly debated Massachusetts healthcare plan Cantor gave it 3 to 4 years to fail because of the problem of having an individual mandate without including a price control to make insurance affordable. He postulates that by that point Gov. Romney will be done running for President which is why the Governor doesn't seem too worried about the fall-out.

John Catsimatidis "It's a sin! It isn't as if it was going to put them out of business"

Diane Savino "If there is a labor law they [Wal-Mart] hasn't broken it's because it hasn't been written yet!"
I'd laugh if it wasn't so sad.

Gloria Lawlah "people say they fear health care rationing... our healthcare is already rationed! It's the insurer not the doctor that decides what care you are getting"

And on a final note, Senator Lawlah repeated an amazing quote by a former Senator Harris Wofford who said "A criminal has the right to be defended by a lawyer - surely a sick person has the right to be cared for by a doctor"
To all those Fair Share doubters I think it's time to stop standing by the snack machine and jump in the pool already!

Elana Levin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 7:49 AM, May 10, 2006 in Fiscal Responsibility | Government Accountability | Health Care | Medicare | Middle-class squeeze | New York | Progressive Agenda | States | Wal-Mart
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