Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Health Care Candidate

I'm back. Looks like everyone had some lovely arguing without me. Thanks to contributing bloggers for covering the day's events!

The DeStefano/Slifka campaign hit the road this week, with appearances in West Hartford, Hartford and now at Wal-Mart stores in the capital city and Stratford, where DeStefano touted his universal health care plan. From the press release:
John DeStefano – Democratic candidate for governor – joined Wal-Mart employees and local elected officials at news conferences in front of Wal-Mart stores in Stratford and Hartford, to demand Wal-Mart and - companies like it - do more to ensure its employees have access to affordable health care. Each year in Connecticut Wal-Mart tops the list in sending taxpayers the bill for their employees’ health care coverage. More than 800 Wal-Mart employees, and 1,600 children, received taxpayer sponsored health care coverage in 2004, costing taxpayers more than $5.5 million.

“I believe it’s wrong that companies like Wal-Mart don’t share in the responsibility of providing affordable health care to their employees,” said DeStefano. “My universal health care plan would force companies like Wal-Mart to either provide quality health care for their employees or lose their state tax benefits. Taxpayers spend millions each year to cover health care for Wal-Mart workers, and that’s not fair to tax payers or the employees.”

Rosa Sota, who works at the Wal-Mart in New Britain, said “They (Wal-Mart) can afford to provide better health insurance. Employees have complained but they don’t listen. We just want to be treated fairly.” (DeStefano)

This is part of a problem that cropped up last year, which involved Wal-Mart and other companies with stingy health care practices all but forcing workers on to the HUSKY program, or leaving them without insurance altogether. It's easy to attack Wal-Mart during an election year, but the problem DeStefano highlights is very, very real.

Universal health care is necessary. Our current insurance-based system has never really worked for low-income workers, as illustrated by the plight of Wal-Mart workers and others, and health care is quickly becoming too expensive for the middle class, as well. All citizens should have access to quality health services that are free at point of care, just as all citizens have access to public education.

I'm not so sure this is the best way to go about it. In essence, DeStefano's plan would let businesses either opt out of paying all or most of their corporate taxes in return for providing health care to employees through a state-run health consortium. There are holes here. For instance, companies could in fact decide not to join this health care consortium. Wal-Mart might decide that it would be better for it to either pay the full state taxes or withdraw entirely from Connecticut rather than pay for better insurance for its workers. Other companies might feel the same.

Small businesses will be pinched either way. Either pay a hefty tax or pay for health care. Neither solution is particularly appealing.

It begs the question: why are employers responsible for providing health care? In other countries government takes on this responsibility. We Americans deeply distrust our government, but have little to no control over private industry--except through regulations passed by our government! So why not eliminate the middle man, and make government directly responsible?

I will give DeStefano an awful lot of credit for trying to find a solution to this problem. Neither Malloy nor Rell is proposing anything so sweeping. I wonder if Connecticut is ready for it, though.

Probably not.

Source

"DeStefano: Wal-Mart should stop passing the buck on healthcare." Press Release. DeStefano for Connecticut. 31 May, 2006.

47 comments:

Chris MC said...

Looks like everyone had some lovely arguing without me.

You have created a monster.
;-)

Mmmm Jodi Rell said...

Great post GC - good to have you back.

If anyone is hoping for universal health care - its Wal-Mart. They understand that the public will get off their back once our state gets it act together and finds an affordable way to provide health care for everyone. The amount of money Connecticut alone - 5.5 million - spends on providing coverage to Wal-Mart employees is criminal. And I'm sure Wal-Mart has ways around paying their corporate taxes. Same thing goes for other large companies who don't provide health care.

I think DeStefano deserves some credit here. To be sure, this plan isn't perfect. But what plan is perfect? It offers some viable choices for a state to pursue if this is their ultimate goal, and it should be.

CTObserver said...

MMMM, Jodi

It's been an interesting evolution of this issue. HUSKY (and later, HUSKY B) was enacted specifically to help low-income workers at places like Walmart, McDonalds, etc get health insurance for their children (and after HUSKY B, for themselves) following 'Welfare Reform' (thanks, Clinton). The plan was designed so that low-income employers would hire folks (since they couldn't draw a welfare check anymore) without the added cost of health insurance (which would have stopped the hiring). Those same employers are now being blamed for the fact that their employees are using the program that was specifically designed for them.

My biggest concern about 'universal health care' is that we already have 85%+ coverage in Connecticut. We should enroll the rest of the eligibles for HUSKY A and B, then figure out how to handle the 5-10% left. The current system of leaving them to their own devices doesn't work, but we don't need to tear down the whole system to fix the last 10%.

Genghis Conn said...

Well, there's coverage and then there's lousy, expensive, spotty, can't-afford-the-deductables coverage. For example, temp agencies offer health care. It's awful. But you could be covered.

HealthcareNOW said...

A couple of people have pointed out to me that the DeStefano "Blog for Connecticut" is getting updated now, and they've chosen to feature this issue prominently to kick things off. You can take a look here:

http://destefanoforct.com/blog/?blog_KEY=293

DeStefano has picked an issue that really resonates with dedicated Democrats, and confronting Wal-Mart is a great place to start in order to point out the burdens that these large corporate conglomerates unfairly impose on our state government and taxpayers. Those who are dedicated to this issue are exactly the activist Democrats who are the most excited for this primary season. If Ned keeps on talking about the war and if DeStefano continues his big healthcare push, line B will seem ever so clearer and it'll be a great season for progressive Democrats in August.

CTObserver said...

GC, I certainly understand 'lousy, expensive, spotty, can't-afford-the-deductables coverage.' I'm a small business owner, with several employees and we all get the same insurance. It's expensive, even with copays and deductibles (for all of us). I really do believe that there are only two ways to bring down (or even stabilize) the cost. One is to ration care via government intervention, the other to ration care via market intervention. The way the system is set up now, the providers want to provide as much health care as they can (to make $$), and the consumers want to consume as much as they can, since it doesn't really cost me any more for that extra test, MRI, CT scan, etc. You can squeeze all you want out of the system through efficiencies, but it's not the inefficiencies that are causing the annual increases of 15 to 20%, its the usage. Say you solved all of the un-insured, under-insured, excess paperwork, lawsuits, etc that everyone likes to blame. Guess what? You get a one year reprieve on the premium increase, then the costs just keep going up since the usage is still increasing.

Look at the Canadian, French, English or German systems, they're going broke because of usage increases, not because of ineffeciencies.

Until we all want to be honest about the fact that any system will not provide 'universal coverage' meaning everything I may some day need, we'll never get anywhere. And guess what, if you go down that road, some premie baby or elderly patient is not going to get his/her needed treatment, and we'll be back adding to the types of health care that is being covered, and we'll be in the same spiral, just blaming government, rather than the insurance companies.

Chris MC said...

Wal*Mart has no constituency in the Democratic primary, so why not run against them. Nobody on our side would defend them.

Which means that DeStefano for Connecticut is once again embracing Mom and Apple Pie and offering no meaningful point of difference between JD and the endorsed candidate, Dan Malloy.

The thing about this is, Malloy has proposed an affordable program to cover more of Connecticut's citizens, and a concrete means to pay for it.

That's substance, HealthcareNOW, not vaporware. Nobody likes WalMart, or McDonalds, etceteras. But we need substance, not posturing.

Chris MC said...

Here is the link to DeStefano's ConnecticutCAN! page:

Perhaps it is just a technical faux pas, but there is nothing there.

A Different Anonymous (No! Really!) said...

Sheesh. I don't wanna say nuthin, but the other thread was a lot more fun.

;-)

Chris MC said...

Was not.

A Different Anonymous (No! Really!) said...

Your type really makes me puke. You snotty faced heap of parrot droppings ... [slams door, logs off, just barely makes getting hit on the head lesson]

Chris MC said...

I don't like spam.

HealthcareNOW said...

Chris MC, I commend you in your neverending quest to one-up others in this online survival of the fittest blogger warfare. If you're like this online, you must be some hell of a success story in real life too.

But you're right, that link leads to nowhere, but it's odd cuz when I went to the DeStefano site, I clicked on the Connecticut CAN! link and it took me directly to the policy:
http://www.destefanoforct.com/content.jsp?content_KEY=1473

Since you didn't get to read what's on there, I wanted to share this quote with you:

"There are currently $620 million in corporate tax credits, exemptions and loopholes; John DeStefano will reform the corporate tax system to close $350 million worth of loopholes, enough to cover all of the uninsured in Connecticut, which has been estimated to cost $343 million."

That plan seems like it's on the right track for me. Now I don't usually like to take the role of the hack in this race, especially because at the end of the day the Ned/Joe race is what should be discussed and concerned about the most in this state, but given that healthcare is one of my main issues I'm going to support the candidate not only with the better plan but the one who's not afraid to go out there and take it upon himself to let people know about the injustices in the fractured health care system. We need to start talking about these issues first, then tackling them with the best proposals out there. DeStefano's plan seems like the best so far to me.

If Malloy makes a big public push in healthcare too, I'll definitely listen to what he has to say. Unfortunately, he hasn't. Actually, I haven't heard a whisper from him since the convention. Joe Lieberman is doing more than Dan Malloy right now and he's a 3-term Senate incumbent.

Oh wait, I have national consultants calling me on my cell right now, I'll be right back...

Genghis Conn said...

Bloody vikings.

cgg said...

Genghis is away from the Internet maybe 12 hours and we go and turn this into the CT Monty Python blog.

Gabe said...

CGG - Is that something to complain about? NEEP!

BTW, GC - When you talk about Rosa Sota, knowing Wal-Mart's PR sensitivity and their corporate jet standing at the ready to fit anything that hints at organizing, it is fairly safe to say that she is soon to be a former employee of Wal-Mart in New Britan.

< / snark >

stamfordpartisan said...

I think that the JDS solution is a crummy half-measure in and of itself. The costs of providing real universal care are pretty steep. Big government health plans run about 12 to 14,000 bucks per household. Does Walmart even pay anywhere near that much per employee to the State of CT? I'd love to know that answer, after years of John Rowland cutting business taxes. They likely get hit harder by the towns, and local government shouldn't fund universal healthcare.

Our best way to get universal hc is to do it nationally. Sadly, we must rely on the Democratic Party to get us there.

I hope JDS picked a day when the WalMart was filled with Democrats who Like Walmart who got pissed at having to push through the crowd of DeStefano aides at the exit.

MikeCT said...

stamfordpartisan,

Big government health plans run about 12 to 14,000 bucks per household.

That is complete nonsense. Parents and children in the HUSKY health insurance program cost around 1,900 per person, compared to about $3,300 for an average employee in a private health plan. Elderly people in nursing homes cost much more, but they do not make up the bulk of the uninsured. Private health plans are far more expensive than public plans, and costs are rising in private plans at a higher rate.

Chris MC said...

Here ya go, HealthcareNOW, if that is in fact your real name.

"What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?"

"Is that an African, or European swallow?"

"I don't kno-arrrrrrrrgh!"

- The search for the Holy Grail

Chris MC said...

Throw those big numbers around, that's fine. But when you start talking about the specifics of this massive overhaul, it might be kind of complicated. But, if you want health care now, you can support Malloy's approach and get something accomplished in the short term.

BRubenstein said...

Yes..i agree the plan of JDS is loaded with exceptions and problems and is a half measure ...thats why we need a national and state goverment agency single payor plan funded by the wealthy and the corporations.

Ned Flanders said...

What are the exceptions with JDS's plan? Maybe I'm interpreting it wrong, but the way I read it is that companies will be incentivized into paying into the plan, instead of being punished for not doing so. Individuals have the opportunity to buy into the plan if they want, unless they make under a certain amount, in which case the state will pay for them. If I'm wrong, please correct me, but this seems like a relatively simple plan, especially when talking about an issue as complicated as universal health care.

ALittleBitDramatic said...

You know, we'd all be better off in an anarcho-sydicalist commune where we all take turns to be an executive officer for the week, but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs but by a two thirds majority otherwise.

Oh, Governor, eh? Very nice. And how'd you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.

Chris MC said...

Just Alittlebitdramatic

LOL

Mmmm Jodi Rell said...

I go out for a nice dinner, come back, and Chris MC's continued to make little sense since then.

I fail to see how there's no distinction on health care with DeStefano and DM. DM has what experts would call 'no plan' when it comes to universal health care. DeStefano has a plan.

Nobody said its perfect. Its a first step. It works towards covering everybody and driving down costs at the same time. It pays for itself by closing corporate tax loopholes and incentivizing, rather than punishing, companies to buy in and provide coverage.

But DeStefano's plan sure beats Malloy's, who'd rather pooh pooh that Gov. Rell doesn't want to adopt his plan to cover every child than to introduce real, substantive policy.

Chris MC said...

You're confusing me with Bruce there, mmmmJodiRell.

Malloy's plan is implementable, pretty much right away. It is something we should all be for. That is the definition of a first step.

As the challenger, one might expect JD to offer something clear and distinctly different from DM. JD agrees in principle, but his proposal lacks specifics on how to pay for it. Saying we're going to "close loopholes" is easy.

In reality, it is a lobbyist's dream come true, and a legislator's nightmare - which $350MM of (annual) loopholes do you propose to close?

Why, let the bidding begin!

ALittleBitDramatic said...

Maybe I should change my handle to "Dennis".

;-)

Guy that never posts said...

Chris MC,

"If you want healthcare now, support Malloys proposal"

Right because the Democratic House and Senate thought it was such a great plan they moved on it immediately during last session...

Oh wait they didn't. Probably because it is a plan of half messaures.

stamfordpartisan said...

MikeCT:

You may indeed have numbers right for HUSKY, but you misunderstood (or I was unclear) about the population I believe that government should be insuring: Not just the "uninsured" but everyone. the 12-14k number is based on the plans provided to public employees and their families. Call your local town hall and ask them. I believe that everyone deserves that kind of coverage. I also believe that the private payor model that we have, and on which JDS would rely for his "solution", is hugely wasteful, dedicating a significant percent of the healthcare pricetag to avoiding responsibility and insurance company profit.

If it doesn't include everyone, from cheap-to-cover kids to the most expensive long-term care patients, then why bother?

I bet that WalMart execs would love to see universal healthcare and would be glad to pay taxes to get it so they wouldn't have to serve as a straw man for our failed NATIONAL healthcare system.

Mmmm Jodi Rell said...

Chris really loves to throw that 2 vote loss in JDS's face and call him "the challenger" all the time.

These guys are in a horse race right now, they're on more or less equal footing and its going to be a dog fight all summer. I don't think either one is "challenging" the other.

MikeCT said...

stamfordpartisan,

Thanks for the clarification! (I'm still surprised by the public employee costs.)

Chris MC said...

Mmmm Jodi Rell -

Nobody is throwing anything in JD's face, the simple fact is that Malloy is, despite JD's institutional advantages and an eight month free pass last year, the endorsed candidate. JD is challenging him for the nomination.

But the substantive point is that Malloy has proposed a health care solution that immediately addresses a specific problem and produces a measurable result, and he can pay for it.

Philosophically we all agree that something must be done. Malloy has offered a concrete first step, not mere rhetoric.

stamfordpartisan said...

Everyone should be SHOCKED by health costs. The prices paid by businesses that do insure their employees are so high that firms can only afford it if their employees are very productive and willing to accept lower and lower effective wages. Look at how the Teamsters finally woke up and went to the mat on premium share at Sikorski. Management (and I work for management) has been pushing premium share up from a few percent a few years ago up to 10 or 15% in the public sector and 30% and more for the privates. Retirees are an even greater wildcard because of long-term care and the fiasco of Med D.

New accounting standards are going into effect now that require governments to show retiree benefits like pensions, so places that haven't put aside enough money (everyone) will show massive unfunded liabilities.

I think its naive to say that Greedy Walmart is the problem, and if they would only be better people they would insure all their employees. They are doing what firms do in our economy: protecting shareholders by trying to avoid as much of fast-rising healthcare costs as they can. Governments do it too. I bet that New Haven's contracts today have higher premium share than they did in 1996 (unless he gave it all back this campaign season!).

The only sensible answer is single payer, and then we can start to argue about the fairest way to tax for the costs.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

"DeStefano: Wal-Mart should stop passing the buck on healthcare."

Never one to let facts get in his way eh?

A Real Democrat said...

Right because the Democratic House and Senate thought it was such a great plan they moved on it immediately during last session...

I think you still have to give Malloy credit here though. He said very clearly that he hoped this plan was implemented now, before he was Governor, and by the way here's how you pay for it (go read the plan on his site and tell me it isn't 10 times more detailed and substantive than DeStefanos).

He also said he felt it was possible immediately, and that it would be the biggest step we've ever taken towards healthcare for all residents (of course, I've personally seen DeStefano blatantly lie and tell people Malloy is against universal healthcare on multiple occassions, but hey whatever it takes to win right?)

TSCowperthwait said...

A Real Democrat,

Maybe I'm missing something or looking in the wrong spot, but where does Mayor Malloy say how he would pay for his healthcare plan? I read that it would $35 million and that we would rely on federal assistance/reimbursement for $14 million, leaving the State responsible for $21 million. Where is the $21-35 million going to come from?

Mmmm Jodi Rell said...

But Malloy has said he's against universal health care. In fact, he was on television and said it was 'unncessary.' Thats a fact. Its clear that he doesn't understand the burdens that health care costs put on small businesses and what can be done to create wealth if those burdens are lifted.

DM's insistence that the legislature pick up his plan was craven and political in nature. Its so easy for him to say "I have a plan now, but the Governor doesn't want to adopt it." Of course the Governor doesn't want to adopt it, you're trying to get her job. Dan Malloy must think we're stupid to fall for that kind of rhetoric. It would be like it Ned Lamont criticized Joe Lieberman for not adopting his plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq. Its purely political.

And Chris's continued insistence that JDS has all the "institutional advantages" still shocks me. Malloy has Jepsen and DiNardo, the former and current chairs of the state party - and has a team of consultants working for him (and Joe Lieberman) that have worked on every gubernatorial campaign in the past 12 years in CT. DeStefano has the support of Larson, DeLauro, Sullivan, and Williams - but maybe its because he's a better candidate?

Thomas Craven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Thomas Craven said...

In terms of simply getting a Universal Health Care bill through our State's Legislature and signed by the Governor, I see it being very similar to Same-Sex Marriage debate and proposals this State has seen in recent years.

Any time we have an archetype that has a strong history and wide support, such as heterosexual marriage - or non-universal, insurance based health care - sweeping reform may simply be too difficult to accomplish in one feel swope.

Now please dont accuse me of throwing my hands in to the air and giving up, because I do think that progress can be made, it just has to come in small steps.

In the same way as I support Civil Unions as a first and nessacary step towards Same Sex Marriage, I simply have a hard time supporting a policy proposal for Universal Health Care that attempts to take us all the way there in its first step.

As much as I think its is nessacary, and a good idea, its just not realistic. This state needs a serious dose of realistic policy, and I just dont see Mayor DeStefano's proposal in this way at all.

The only glaring ommission I see in Mayor Destefano's proposal is I cant find a time line for action. Is this a proposal he is looking to bring to the legislature on Day 1, Day 100, Day 365? Also, how long will it take if this proposal is ratified in law for each person to begin recieving coverage/benefits. I cant image that Day 1 after the bill is passed that I can go get some free x-rays on my hip.

Gimme a time frame - lets be realistic and honest.

Chris MC said...

Mmmm Jodi Rell -
But Malloy has said he's against universal health care. In fact, he was on television and said it was 'unncessary.'
You either genuinely don't know what you are talking about or are intentionally misrepresenting Malloy's position. I defy you to find that quote, because it doesn't exist. That is the DeStefano for Connecticut spin.

And your continued harping on the "support" of DiNardo is misinformed on two levels. First, she has not taken sides in the Gubernatorial primary. Second, and if you know anything about Democratic politics in this state you should know this, State Central has no control whatsoever over anybody. There are DSCC members in both camps.

The only institutional support remaining in the Democratic party is the leadership of the AFL-CIO, which, as Bruce points out in detail elsewhere, seeks to be the determing factor in the Democratic nomination.

JD's campaign strategy is as plain as can be, all you have to do is look at his website - it's all about the endorsements of the party establishment. This former Congressman, that Big Labor organization. And, BTW, former State Chairs Ed Marcus and John Olsen, if you're so concerned about the influence of former state chairmen.

Get your facts straight. Stop posting misinformation and calling names.

BRubenstein said...

MMMM Jodi REll...

DM and JDS share the same political hacks that have been senior members of every losing gubernatorial race since 1986.No matter what side they are on,they share something for sure..a losing track record and a loser mentality from constantly being out-smarted.
I for one, would be happy if that generation of political operatives,strategists and consultants left the scene.How can anyone of them be taken as serious players when we haven't won the governer's race since 1986? While they continue to "whore" for money, they are bringing our party down with out of date idea's,old strategy,no vision and a constant pattern of loses.

In my view, not one of our candidate's or their staff's and operatives have adequately done enough prepatory or public work so far to begin to turn Rell's popularity down.Both should have done more against Rell much earlier then now.Now both DM and JDS are busy people campaigning and depend on staff and operatives and consultants for advise.Surely some person in either camp would have come up with a decent strategy by now if they had the ability to do so.Its rather obvious to me that this generation of operatives,consultants and strategists must disappear from the scene in order for my party to once again have a chance for the governor's job.

But for the continued supremacy of certain factions within the Democratic Party,it doesn't mean a tinker's dam if the candidate on August 9th is facing a Rell with 80% popularity, as no large number of folks would reasonably be convinced to shift their support in the remaining 3 months, especially if you haven't done much work in the preceeding 24 months to enhance such a sudden shift of voter support.

Mmmm Jodi Rell said...

It was on Channel 8 in April. He was on with Mark Davis - he said universal health care was 'unnecessary.' I was watching it on television.

And please don't accuse me of spinning anything, as you breath Malloy talking points. When he has a plan for covering everyone, then maybe we can have a discussion. Until then, whats all the fuss about?

bluecoat said...

CTObservoer: you hit the nail right on the head - the issue is really about usage because all insurance does is pay for the usage - nice job but too bad nobody engaged you in some discourse about the real underlying problem!!!!

TrueBlueCT said...

BREAKING!

CTLocal blogger "Harry Reid" being investigated by the FBI!

Man, oh man. And I told "Harry" that what he was doing here wasn't right. Should have listened to me.

And to everyone else, think twice before you start publicly slandering an attorney. Rubenstein is all over this, and I don't think he'll let go.

Could one of Joe Lieberman's staffers really have been so stupid?

Here's my guess for who "Harry" is. Either A) Ken Dagliere, or B) Matt Lieberman.

Goon Squad said...

The F.B.I. has hit CT Local Politics!

It's official, this blog just 'Jumped the Shark'

Truth Be Told.........

Mr X said...

John DeStefano has Jumped The Shark by picking the Boy Wonder of West Hartford.

I am so looking to August 8th when Dan Malloy & Mary Glassman defeat Destefano and Slifka.

Go Malloy & Glassman
Just SAY NO to DeStefano and Slifka

Alicia Bennett said...

Hi, I was just wandering the blogosphere and here I am at your blog. I enjoy the style of how this all works.

This is one to watch.

Cheers,

Medical Health Insurance