Rep. Kowalko reintroduces single-payer health care bill

By James Dawson
WDDE Public Radio (Dover, Del.), April 12, 2013

In a legislative season marked by hot-button issues, one Delaware lawmaker is adding another to that list. Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South) introduced a bill this week that would transform the state’s health care system into a single-payer option.

Kowalko introduced a similar bill late last session, but it failed to gain traction. He says the new system would pay for Delawareans’ health care through new taxes instead of private insurance.

“To be honest and frank and blunt, yes, they’re new taxes,” said Kowalko. “But to be honest and frank and blunt, they are supplanting a probably higher rate of revenue that is leaving the pockets of the employers and the employees at this time.”

Kowalko adds the move would eliminate administrative overhead and duplicative costs associated with insurance companies, although he is concerned about those who could face layoffs if the bill passes. He says that’s an unfortunate possibility, but single payer would ultimately reduce costs for everyone.

“We have got to get off the fact that health care available availability and health care insurance is a job placement service when it’s at the expense of the rate payers, because it’s becoming unmanageable,” said Kowalko.

Part of the money collected through taxes would go toward retraining displaced workers for up to three years after becoming law.

The new taxes would be levied through the payroll tax, personal income tax and an additional surcharge on high-income earners.

Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle (R-4th District) says this bill would reduce consumer choices and would not support it.

“This does nothing to strengthen the economy. Right now, we’ve got a hobbled economy with a sprained ankle. It doesn’t make sense to come in and whack it with an axe to make it better.

He says he doesn’t believe that it would actually lower costs to Delawareans. “These things never go as suggested. Just look at the Affordable Care Act. This is just such an inopportune time to introduce something like this.”