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A bill that would provide universal health care coverage for all Pennsylvanians is being considered in the PA Legislature, and a new study about the plan says it would be just as healthy for the commonwealth's economy as its citizens.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Having to deal with a debilitating illness or injury is difficult enough without having to worry that it will drive you to bankruptcy, or whether you should seek treatment at all for fear of medical debt. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
Sen. Ted Kennedy
Sen. Ted Kennedy
Ted Kennedy railed against the American health care system for only truly taking care of the wealthiest people and fought for health care to to be "a right and not a privilege" for everyone. Social inequities in health care are literally a matter of life and death for those of us not at the wealthy extreme of the socioeconomic spectrum; it's a moral outrage to have so many peoples' lives hinging on whether they have a spare fortune lying around waiting to be spent. Unfortunately, despite President Obama accomplishing perhaps the greatest stride towards health care equity in American history with the Affordable Care Act or "ObamaCare," the decades-old words of King and Kennedy still ring painfully true for many Americans dealing with health problems.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of 2011 there were well over one million Pennsylvanians with no health insurance. Nearly a quarter million of the uninsured are children. Step aside, cliche right-wing talking points, because over 800,000 of them are in families with at least one person employed full-time. And step aside, racist right-wing talking points, because over 900,000 of them are white. In today's world, America is starkly alone among so-called developed nations for not having a universal health care system that covers everyone equally. If you're thinking we don't cover everyone because it saves us money, think again, because the average country with a universal system has less than half the per-patient cost of what we spend. There's both a moral and economic imperative here.

Now, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to catch up with the rest of the world and establish our own universal health care system. State Senator Jim Ferlo (38th District - Allegheny, Armstrong & Westmoreland counties) and state Representative Pamela DeLissio (194th District - Montgomery & Philadelphia counties) have announced their intention to reintroduce the Family and Business Health Care Security Act, which has been considered in the past in the PA Senate as SB 400 and in the PA House as HB 1660, to the PA Legislature in this session.

PA State Representative Pamela DeLissio
PA State Representative Pamela DeLissio
Here are some bullet-points Ferlo is highlighting to promote the bill for co-sponsorship among his fellow Pennsylvania legislators (slightly edited down by yours truly):
- Quality medical, dental, vision, and mental health care for every Pennsylvanian.

- Establishment of an efficient Health Care Trust owned and controlled by the people of Pennsylvania as the single payer for health care services, thus eliminating the existing wasteful and inefficient system of multiple third party payers.

- Relieving employers from the responsibility of selecting, pricing, and administering health insurance.

- Elimination of all traditional health insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.

- Full funding of prescription drugs while leveraging the buying power of 12 million Pennsylvanians to lower costs.

- Support for the swift transition to a secure electronic medical record system to reduce costs and errors.

- Full funding for substance abuse treatment.

- A centralized data collection and analysis approach that will identify physicians and hospitals with patterns of preventable errors leading to prompt remedial action designed to eliminate future occurrences.

- Preservation of the private practice of medicine and the right of the patient to choose their doctor and hospital.

- Assuring that every Pennsylvanian in need of long term care can qualify for assistance without having to spend themselves into poverty.

- Sparing Pennsylvanians forever the humiliation of personal bankruptcy due to family health care expenses.

PA State Senator Jim Ferlo
PA State Senator Jim Ferlo
A recent study of this legislation by Gerald Friedman, Ph.D. of the Department of Economics of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst concluded that the Family and Business Health Care Security Act would be great for Pennsylvania's economy as well as its health care system. According to a summary of the research by Healthcare4AllPA, Friedman found that:
By reducing administrative costs and anti-competitive market practices, [the Family and Business Health Care Security Act] could save $33 billion in 2014, almost 23% of existing medical spending. These savings would allow the expansion of coverage to all Pennsylvania residents while still saving over $17 billion, or $1,335 per person.

[The Family and Business Health Care Security Act] would be funded by a 10% payroll tax paid by employers and a 3% levy on income paid by recipients. The shift from insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses to taxes linked with income would lower health care spending for over 80% of Pennsylvanians.

Businesses and local governments would also benefit, saving on payroll costs as well as the premiums paid to cover the "administrative costs" associated with private health insurance. By lowering payroll costs, [the Family and Business Health Care Security Act] would make Pennsylvania businesses more competitive, producing an additional 120,000 – 200,000 new jobs.

Healthcare4AllPA also used the research to create this chart of which sectors projected health care savings in PA would come from if this bill became law:
With all these lives to be saved and improved, all this money we could stop wasting on our current inefficient health care system in Pennsylvania, and all these jobs that could be created, it's hard to think of any reason outside the conspiratorial "death-panels" that anyone in PA would be against this. A 2010 poll released by the Pennsylvania Medical Society showed that two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support universal health care. Even Republican former state legislator and current business-owner David Steil vocally supports it.

Here is our collective chance as a state to finally catch up with the rest of the world and have a universal health care system that provides for everyone. It may seem greatly improbable or too-good-to-be-true in the abstract, but that is only true if we allow it to be. There's no doubt it seemed that way in other countries before reforms happened there. I urge all my fellow Pennsylvanians to contact your state legislators and tell them to support the Family and Business Health Care Security Act and universal health care for PA, with emphasis on the duel imperative of morality and economics. They take calls from constituents seriously. You can look them up and find their contact information here.

Originally posted to ProgressivePatriotPA on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 04:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Pennsylvania.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (21+ / 0-)

    Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Fighting Bob La Follette

    by ProgressivePatriotPA on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 04:05:24 PM PDT

  •  Omigod, actual hope, some light of day... (6+ / 0-)

    I'm making calls to my legislators on Friday (no time tomorrow). Also shared this on Facebook.

    What are the possibilities of this actually coming to be? With the insurance lobby so damn strong here they will be certain to put up a huge fight. But stranger things have happened, and I am spreading the word to call, call, call.

    curious portal - to a world of paintings, lyric-poems, art writing, and graphic and web design

    by asterkitty on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 04:27:08 PM PDT

    •  Great! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      msmacgyver, asterkitty

      Hearing that you'll be calling your legislators about this is awesome to hear, and I really appreciate you sharing my blog with your circle of friends and acquaintances.

      I think this legislation has better chances than it might seem at first. Yes, we have Republican majorities in both chambers of the PA Legislature and a Republican governor, but that doesn't make it hopeless. After making it seem like he definitely wouldn't approve the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare, now Gov. Corbett is in talks about it with the secretary of Health & Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius), so it might be happening after all. If Corbett can be pushed to sensibility on that health care issue, I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility for him to get behind this legislation if state legislators clamor for it.

      Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Fighting Bob La Follette

      by ProgressivePatriotPA on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 04:54:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I get free healthcare in California (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ProgressivePatriotPA, Rogneid, MRA NY

    through a plan that's part of the state version of Medicaid, and while I do have some complaints - particularly about how far away the hospital is that I'm assigned to (about half an hour by freeway) - I would hope the state would make it open to everyone.  The doctors are great and there are plenty of them in range, no copays ever, no deductibles, and full prescription coverage of everything I've ever been prescribed (though I understand there are some things that aren't covered).  My little taste of state healthcare tastes pretty sweet.

    Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

    by Troubadour on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 04:40:52 PM PDT

  •  For an old-economy state like PA... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    msmacgyver, MRA NY's pretty good that only a million people are uninsured.  I'm wondering how a quarter of that could be children, since CHIP is supposed to insure all children in PA and I recently spoke with someone who works with uninsured folks who confirmed that it actually works.

    I assume the bill referenced in the diary, nifty though it sounds, has as much chance as a bill repealing gravity.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:03:40 PM PDT

  •  What with the idiots being in control (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MRA NY

    of our state government the odds of a good bill like this going anywhere is just about nil. And that is a shame but given the level of ignorance in todays Republican party what else can we except after all they hate everyone who is not rich and that includes the fools who vote for them!!!

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