Healthcare For All Ohioans Would Promote Economic Prosperity

by Margaret Brinich
The Lakewood (Ohio) Observer, Nov. 16, 2010

Charles Shaughnessy interviewed April Stoltz on the Health Care For All Ohioans Act (HCFAOA)

Q. April, your picture was on the front page of the Huffington Post last week. What were you protesting so soon after the mid-term elections? Your sign read “Healthcare …” but it was cut off in the picture.

A. Actually, that was an AP image from a "Medicare for All" protest that occurred in Cleveland in October of 2009. The sign said “Healthcare is a Human Right”. The picture is old, but the debate continues. There are nineteen states with single payer healthcare initiatives at various stages. The non-profit organization SPAN Ohio is working to promote a Medicare-for-All style plan known as the Health Care for All Ohioans Act (HCFAOA). SPAN stands for Single-Payer Action Network.

Q. Most people have health insurance and they’re generally satisfied with it. Why rock the boat?

A. Premiums will continue to rise. More and more Ohioans will be priced out of the health care market. It’s not only a health care crisis, but a major contributor to the economic crisis. Lack of health insurance leads to lack of health care and a less-healthy working population. Ohio needs jobs. If Ohio had a comprehensive health care plan covering all citizens and the costs were known, prospective employers would be encouraged to start up new businesses or move businesses into Ohio. It’s in our economic self-interest.

Q. Is it possible to extend health care to everyone without raising the collective cost?

A. Absolutely. The premiums being paid today by individuals, employers, and taxpayers, and the co-pays being paid for medical service could pay for comparable coverage for all. The savings would come from a number of efficiencies. Administrative costs would decline significantly if there were one Medicare-type system in place of a number of private insurance carriers. There would be no need for multi-million dollar executive salaries. No shareholder dividends to pay out quarterly. No marketing budget. Equipment costs for million-dollar imaging machines would be reduced. Today there are too many MRI machines in some areas, sitting idle, while other parts of the state have a shortage. Emergency departments would no longer be a substitute for a doctor’s office. Ohio’s population of about 13 million would mean prescription prices could be negotiated downward significantly. As a local example, health insurance savings for the Lakewood School System would exceed $7 million annually with the passage of the Health Care for All Ohioans Act. Elimination of waste is not possible with the Federal plan, as insurance companies are left to their own devices with no caps on premiums.

Access to medical care for all, including preventive care programs, would lead to a healthier, more productive population. Aside from a better quality of life for all, employees could choose a job or profession based on true interest rather than availability of employer-provided health care coverage. It’s been shown for many years that European and Asian countries have enjoyed a higher level of medical care for less cost than in the United States. SPAN Ohio is showing the PBS special "Sick Around the World " Thursday November 18th at 7:00 p.m. at the Shaker Heights Community Bldg. at 3450 Lee Rd. It's free and parking is free.

Q. What about all the workers engaged in claims processing at doctor’s offices and insurance companies who would lose their jobs?

A. Fewer workers would be needed to process claims in a Medicare-type single-payer system, but extending coverage would increase the number of workers needed to run the state plan. Those who wouldn’t be needed would be protected by a provision of Ohio’s proposed plan. They would be paid their previous income, up to $60,000 annually, for up to two years, while training for new jobs or until they took other jobs.

Q. It seems that many people get upset over discussions of health care issues. Can you explain that?

A. I don’t know what others are thinking, but poling show 85% of the population is in favor of no pre-existing condition restrictions and in favor of extending coverage for children and young adults up to age 26. The biggest complaint about the Federal plan is that many provisions don’t take effect until 2014 and that it still leaves the insurance companies in the drivers seat raising costs and cutting coverage.

Q. You have said health care access has become especially important due to the current economic crisis. Please explain.

A. Ohioans know we must have attractive conditions to bring in new job opportunities and that includes having a healthier work force and known health care costs for employers. Ohio is a leader in agricultural production, manufacturing, exports to other countries, and the development and manufacture of climate-friendly sources of energy, yet we’re suffering in a few measures, notably high unemployment. Fiscal responsibility is not a partisan issue. The Healthcare for All Ohioans Act (HCFAOA) could make an impact on our state budget and would promote economic prosperity by creating an entrepreneur-friendly environment.

Q. What local entities support this effort?

A. Endorsers of the campaign sponsored by the Single-Payer Action Network Ohio (SPAN Ohio) to pass the Health Care For All Ohioans Act (HCFAOA) include health care professionals, unions, faith-based organizations, businesses, and government bodies throughout the state.  Local support comes from Ohio Senator Michael Skindell, Ohio State Reps. Nickie Antonio and Michael Foley, Cleveland City Council and Lakewood City Council.

April Stoltz retired early from the U.S. Post Office and has good health insurance coverage, but works for health care for all, as a “civilized and responsible” access solution. She volunteers for Single-Payer Action Network Ohio (SPAN Ohio).

Charles Shaughnessy is a long-time resident of Lakewood, Ohio and currently serves as Treasurer of the Lakewood Democratic Club.