Friday, November 02, 2007


Brownstein's Distortion

Ronald Brownstein writes today in the Los Angeles Times that California may upset the growing trend toward a national universal health care system. According to Mr. Brownstein, Organized Labor in California is trying to derail the system proposed by "centrist" Governor Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger's proposal, like the system enacted in Massachusetts and similar to proposals by Democratic candidates Clinton and Edwards, is essentially a bargain with the very powerful insurance industry. Schwarzenegger would require everyone to buy health insurance. In return, the insurance industry would sell insurance to everyone without regard to preexisting health conditions. A subsidy would be provided for people with low incomes to enable them to buy insurance. In other respects Schwarzenegger's proposal is similar to the system we now have in that employers would be required either to provide subsidized insurance for their employees or pay into a State fund that would provide the subsidies for low income residents.

Mr. Brownstein presents the idea that the Schwarzenegger plan is a centrist plan. I don't know what his idea of a conservative plan would be. It seems to me that the Schwarzenegger plaln is actually very conservative. It keeps all the elements of the present broken plan and applies both band-aids and force to make it work properly. The force is the requirement that everyone buy private insurance. The band-aid is the subsidy for people who can't afford insurance.

There is a liberal or progressive plan, advanced by State Senator Sheila Kuehl here in California and in the Congress by Representative John Conyers of Michigan. That plan gets rid of the private insurers by replacing them with a single-payer insurance pool that includes everyone. Everyone pays into the pool as part of their taxes. The profit-hungry insurers are deleted. Similar plans work well in Canada and in several European countries.

Mr. Brownstein presents a distorted account of reality. He implies that Schwarzenegger's plan is "liberal," and that the "liberal" labor unions are opposing it. Actually, the Schwarzenegger plan is a Republican plan. It was enacted in Massachusetts with the support of a Republican Governor and Republican (and Democratic) members of the legislature. Mr. Schwarzenegger's plan is like the plan proposed several years ago by a Republican member of the California Assembly. We liberals have little interest in it. We have our own "liberal" plan, a plan that has worked well in other parts of the world. To us, the Schwarzenegger-Massachusetts plan has not demonstrated that it is capable of providing good quality health care to all at a price that our society can afford.

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