Delaware committee hears single-payer health care system bill

By Michael Chesney
WBOC-TV (Salisbury, Md.), Nov. 6, 2013

DOVER, Del. - A single-payer health care system in Delaware was what was up for discussion Wednesday night at Legislative Hall, even though the Delaware General Assembly is out of session.

A single-payer system is government-run health care. The state, not private insurance companies, would handle all health care costs.

HB 74 would create that system in Delaware. It was introduced back in April. But its sponsor requested it be heard outside of session. So, it was a very small crowd on-hand in the house chamber to discuss the specifics of the single-payer healthcare system plan. According to Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark South, the bill's sponsor, the state would pay for the system mainly through a payroll tax for employers, federal medicare and medicaid money and a personal income tax increase of 2.5 percent.

"The first instinct is you're going to increase my tax," he said. "If you're decreasing the current money you pay for health care, if you decrease the cost of co-pays, deductibles, if you eliminate those, you'll find that 2.5-percent is a savings compared to what you're paying now."

Beth Clifton, of Smyrna, is comfortable with a two-point-five percent income tax increase. She says it would probably end up costing the same as her current insurance.

"I think overall it's a good thing," Clifton said. "I know health care costs in general have sky-rocketed. I saw my deductible go up this year. Prescription premiums went up a lot this year."

Martin Shuey came up from Bridgeville for the hearing. He's not necessarily opposed to a single-payer system, but he has serious issues with this bill.

"It all sounds good when you hear it from them. But the way it's written is scary," he said. "Any time you talk about one-payer systems. I'm not saying they're bad. But they have to be controlled properly. I think that needs to be a concern for everybody."

While a few people at the hearing had questions and concerns like Shuey's, nobody spoke in strong opposition to it. In general opponents of plans like this don't want government this involved in health care - believing it will lead to a rationing of care.

The lack of people at Wednesday's hearing could be an indication of the traction this bill has. A similar bill didn't go anywhere in 2012. Or the small turnout could be a result of lawmakers not actually being in session.

There are plans for two more meetings on the topic. No action was taken at this meeting. Even if the bill passed in this upcoming legislative session, the system wouldn't go into effect for a few years.