A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Council asked to back single-payer health plan

Written May 24th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Council members and other officials at a meeting on May 20. Health care came up two days later.

As if it didn’t have enough on its plate, the Albany City Council has been asked to get involved in the drive by many Democrats in Salem and Washington for single-payer health insurance. It may do so by considering a resolution on June 10.

This came up when Ray Hilts, an Albany resident and member of the local chapter of a group calling for health care for all, appeared before the council Wednesday and asked members to pass a resolution supporting Oregon Senate Bill 770, which would establish a state commission to design a single-payer insurance plan for universal health care.

He offered to supply a suggested resolution, and Mayor Sharon Konopa said that if he does, it could come up at a council work session on June 10. She and Councilor Dick Olsen thought a universal system might reduce health insurance costs for employers, which would help with Albany’s city budget issues.

SB 770 cleared the Senate Health Care Committee on April 8 with three Democrats in favor and two Republicans against. It was referred to the Joint Ways and Means Committee, where it  has been stuck since.

The bill would establish an 18-member Universal Health Care Commission. The commission would be charged with recommending a design for a “Health Care for All Oregon Plan.” This plan would be intended “to provide high quality, publicly funded health care available to every individual residing in Oregon.”

Further, the commission would have to issue an interim report next March and its final recommendations to the legislature by Feb. 1, 2021.

The Senate committee was told that 93.8 percent of Oregonians had health insurance in 2017. Some 47.5 percent  were covered through private group health insurance, 26 percent through Medicaid, 15.1 percent through Medicare, and 5.2 percent through private individual insurance.

Hilts told the council that out-of-pocket medical expenses for him and his wife in 2018 totaled $18,000. While they could afford it, he added, he was worried about the many people who could not. (hh)

17 responses to “Council asked to back single-payer health plan”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    Perspective adds understanding.
    Oregon population = 4,256,350
    94% covered by various insurances = 4,000,969

    Using stats provided by this article, 41% of the above 94% are currently covered by Government-provided, taxpayer-supported health coverage (Medicare, Medicaid) which amounts to 1,640,398 Oregonians already living with government-funded health care.

    Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties have a population of 1,683,397 folks.

    Do the math. Perspective is a wonderful thing.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Using your approach, 53% (59% if you add non covered) do not have some sort of government insurance.

      And under the “full Bernie” single payer system, Medicare as it exists today would be eliminated and replaced by a different government-run system.

      So, do the math. A majority would be forced to give up their private plans and 100% would be forced into single payer.

      Yes indeed, perspective is a wonderful thing.

      • J. Jacobson says:

        Medicare For All naysayers believe the concept  inherently evil.  They  cling tenaciously to the notion that employer-provided Health Insurance benefits will continue to exist ad infinitum.  Perhaps…but the pendulum is swinging the other way for a number of reasons.

        Automation and the fast-approaching take-over of Artificial Intelligence will eliminate entire categories of work.  With the ever-increasing cost of health care, the idea that corporate boards are going to continue to dangle healthcare benefits seems impossible.

        All one need do to understand the frailty of employer-provided healthcare as a job benefit is take a brief dive into history.
        Before Employer-Provided Health Insurance

        Prior to World War II, most Americans paid for their own medical care, either directly to the provider, or beginning in the 1930s, through the Blue Cross nonprofit health insurance entities which were created to offer guaranteed service for a fixed fee. Back then, health insurance really was insurance – providing coverage only for major items like hospitalizations that people could not afford to pay for themselves. All other expenses were paid out-of-pocket directly to the provider.

        The Birth of Employer-Provided Health Insurance

        During World War II, the federal government was wary of post-war inflation. The administration saw the devastation hyperinflation wreaked on post-World War I Germany and they were determined to hold it at bay through wage and price controls which they instituted during the war. In reaction to the wage controls, many labor groups planned to go on strike en masse.  In order to avert major nationwide strikes, in a concession to the labor groups, the War Labor Board exempted employer-paid health benefits from wage controls and income tax.

        Bottom line:  employer-provided healthcare is an historically-recent phenomenon.  As the Gig Economy grows and Union representation shrinks, anyone who believes employer-provided health care  is sacrosanct is deluding herself or himself.  

        I urge those who believe the current system is somehow guaranteed to follow economic trends and read a little history. Look both backward and forward.

        • HowlingCicada says:

          All good points. Continuing from the same excerpted source (a blog from some sort of insurance broker or servicer or something – more middleman nonsense) with my comments in brackets:

          “””This historical accident created a tax advantage that drove enormous demand for employer-provided health insurance plans over the previously more common individual health insurance. Employers received a 100% tax deduction [as they should for a legitimate business expense] while the benefits employees received were exempt from federal, state, and city taxation [stupid because of the mess it made and grossly unfair].”””


          Remember, it started in the post-war era of high tax rates and high deductions. Those who believe in fair taxation and oppose government “social engineering” and picking winners and losers should be opposed to deductions like this and the mortgage-interest deduction and a deduction for charitable contribution of appreciated property that is too bizarre to believe.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Five years ago Wes Hare reminded me that a resolution is not an ordinance. A resolution can be changed at any time by a simple majority vote of the council. Resolutions are a statement, not a law.

    But in this case I think there is great value if the council takes a vote on a single payer resolution. Why?

    It will inform Albany residents who on the council are Democrats and who are Republicans. Single payer is a litmus test for each of the major parties.
    (I make the bold assumption that nobody on the council is a member of a fringe party, e.g. Green, Socialist, Oregon Progressive, et al.)

    Elections in Albany for Mayor and Council are nonpartisan. And the absence of a party label confuses voters. It’s time to end the confusion.

    Please support having the council vote on this resolution. It’s a positive step towards transparency in Albany government.

  3. Debbie Swenson says:

    His heart might be in the right place, but if he and everyone else who thinks single payer health care is a good idea, I think they all need to do some homework and investigate the reality of it. There are plenty of examples to see. Everyone loses with socialized medicine, or socialism of anything really. Every one is a fail. Ask people in Canada or Great Britain how long they have to wait for an appointment or surgery. How many treatments are denied? How many don’t get treatment they need based on their age or cost? Many factors to consider. I have mentioned only a few. Government has no money. We are deep in debt and being taxed into poverty already.

    • Peggy Richner says:

      Not everyone will lose, Mrs. Swenson. Those who are politically well placed, along with their families and friends, will receive not only priority, but higher quality care. George Orwell was right on the money in Animal Farm: “Some are more equal than others.” Furthermore, medical care across the board will deteriorate because profit is a powerful incentive. Government intervention by definition results in what people wouldn’t be willing to pay for if given a choice; it’s all about robbing Peter on Paul’s behalf.

  4. HowlingCicada says:

    The business end of medicine in the U.S. is horribly broken. Examples:

    1 – For roughly comparable lifelong outcomes, the U.S. pays significantly more for health care than any other country, except maybe Switzerland. We pay about twice the average of the top-20 richest countries.

    2 – The incentives are all wrong. Lots of money for “procedures” and end-of-life heroics. Little money for preventive care, education, and research into healthy lifestyles.

    3 – We already HAVE socialized medicine. Emergency rooms – you know the story. What we don’t have is EFFECTIVE socialized medicine that would keep the indigent from using the ER as a family doctor.

    4 – Drug prices, and related gimmickry and opacity (secrecy and deception), have gone insane the last few years. Much of this involves generic drugs, so the argument about needing more to fund research is at least partially bogus. Medicare isn’t allowed to act like any other insurer to negotiate drug prices.

    5 – We have paperwork and bureaucracy driving everyone crazy, especially doctors. Much of it relates to getting payment from insurers. If you have Medicare, there is a semi-bogus “charge” and an “adjustment” which brings down the actual price (4/5 Medicare, 1/5 you) to a more-than-reasonable level. Then there are further adjustments later on that give doctors a little extra based on the phony “charge.” I don’t know if private insurers work the same way. It’s just bonkers.

    How much do we waste, in ever increasing amounts, on these and other stupidities? I’m not saying that single-payer would necessarily solve any of this, nor that the Albany City Council should get involved, so put down your pitchforks. I’m only saying that what we have is working very badly.
    Trump wants to fix some of #4 – good luck and wake me up when it happens.

  5. Bill says:

    “” This plan would be intended “to provide high quality, publicly funded health care available to every individual residing in Oregon.””
    I just have to ask…..Are we inviting the rest of the planet to come to Oregon for their health care needs? And why is lil’ old Albany inserting itself into what would appear to be a State gov’t issue? Doesn’t Albany have enough to do already?

  6. CherylP says:

    Many, many years ago, we had a HMO. LOVED IT! The cost of the insurance itself was very reasonable AND affordable. The co-pays were reasonable AND affordable. We only an issue once…you were supposed to get pre-approval for non-life threatening ER visits to get 100% coverage and we didn’t. But once we explained what had happened…hubby at the time was playing softball and folded his leg at the ankle when he slid into second…everything was covered.

    • Ken Walter says:

      That what you get through private insurance, you don’t like it, you’re out. Public insurance you don’t like it, too bad. Everyone likes to complain about private insurance but at least you can complain and change provider. Deal with the 6% of people without insurance but they can have the public insurance, the one you get what you get and you like it.

      • CherylP says:

        That’s not true. If you don’t like ‘public’ insurance, you don’t have to have it. While OHP can be a real PITA a lot of times, I am grateful because of the cost of my insulin…$1200 a month. And even with ‘public’ insurance like OHP and Medicare, if you don’t like your doctor, there are many other doctors you can choose from. It’s no different than private insurance.

        • George Pugh says:

          You say “If you don’t like ‘public’ insurance, you don’t have to have it.” The law or regulation requires that you must have some type of insurance. If your choice is “no insurance” you are supposed to pay a financial penalty.
          I write “supposed to pay” because a stubborn friend found a way to avoid the penalty.

  7. thomas cordier says:

    a bunch of mutually exclusive goals
    gov’t run
    high quality
    low cost
    timely responsive.
    Wake up Ray can’t have it all regardless of what you propose

  8. Ken Walter says:

    Medicare for all, more like V.A. for all. Do you want freedom or free? There is no freedom when there is no choice.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Regardless of the plan or process, there will always be choices, One may disagree with what the choices may be, but there will always be choices…


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