Friday, June 22, 2007

The Three Musketeers: Taxes, Health Care, and the Economy

The latest Badger Poll found the following three issues to be the top concern among Wisconsin residents:
  1. Taxes (23 percent)
  2. Health care (12 percent)
  3. Economy (11 percent)
I understand the general purpose of getting public responses on "the most important issue," but as I look at those top three, I can't help but wonder how you can possibly separate any one from the others.

Health care costs are the biggest strain on public revenue, and unpaid medical bills are one of the biggest factors behind personal debt and bankruptcy. And as costs continue to rise and put pressure on employers, wages will continue to stagnate and gradually the level of insurance will decrease for employees, which in turn leads to an increase in unpaid medical bills and -- in addition to more personal debt and bankruptcy -- results in more costs shifting onto the payers who remain in the system, such as public employees and private employees who are still receiving affordable coverage.

To simply aim public policy at the monolithic goal of "cutting taxes" has the potential for handling a portion of the cycle by shifting more health care costs onto public employees -- if the tax cuts are realized in that way -- which I'm sure would please a number of conservative commentators, but it wouldn't deal with the fundamental problem of rising health care costs or the economic troubles that come as a result.

The "just cut taxes" line is great for a stump speech, TV commercial, or press release, but it's fundamentally short-sighted at best, and at worst it misses an opportunity to address one of the fundamental causes of high taxes and economic distress, which is our inefficient and inequitable health care system.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a question Seth. How do you feel about the Senate Dems keeping their health care package from public view until the moment before it is brought to the floor?

Actually, the media have a copy of it so they can write favorable articles in the Sunday papers, nut the public has not seen it. Also, don't think that the statewide public hearings are of any value. This proposal is soemthing entirely knew - different application - different cost and different coverage.

Rumor has it WEAC members will be exempt from the package. So everyone else will have their health decisions made by politicians in Madison, except teachers will get to keep their flexibility and higher cost.

If this is such a great package for Wisconsin - why are the Senate Dems hdiding the package from the people?

June 22, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Sure, it bothers me that the Senate Dems aren't being more open about the proposal. But waiting a week to see the details doesn't bother me nearly as much as the fact that Assembly Repubs are going to block any fundamental health care reform proposal -- whether in the budget or as a standalone bill -- regardless of how much sense it makes, how much the public might want it, or how many public hearings were held on it simply because it involves the government.

And, to be honest, I can't blame the Senate Dems for their conscious use of the media on this (what major public policy proposal doesn't involve a conscious use of the media?). They know their proposal isn't going to make it through the budget process. This is about getting the issue broader media attention. Aside from a tad on the WHP and a story or two on the WHCPP, all three proposals that were made last session came with next to no media attention. Getting this in the budget is the best way to get it out to the public, at this point.

The WEAC exclusion is a substantive point. As such, it would bother me a lot more, if true, and it's something I would take issue with on this blog. But I'll wait to see the details -- which will be coming soon enough -- before I decide if it's worth jeopardizing my support for the proposal as a whole.

In the end, I want fundamental health care reform. I don't want it achieved through devious means, but, at the same time, I'm not naive enough to believe that it needs to have absolute purity and complete openness attached to it in order for it to be something worth supporting (if those were my standards, there would be very few public policy proposals I could support). The end doesn't always justify the means, but I'm not going to put such a high emphasis on the means that it makes it even less likely that a desirable end can be achieved.

June 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it the least bit unethical for the journalists to take possession of the plan two days before the articles appear and ask the opposition for comments, but only on the sections that the media will release to them?

The bigger question, if the plan is so great for Wisconsin, why wouldn't you want a real public hearing? The secrecy alone puts this plan into question.

June 23, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

It's somewhat clear you have at least a bit of insider info on what goes on in the Capital, so I'm sure you're aware that many major proposals, studies, polls, etc., get floated to the media with a predetermined release date. Was it any different with TABOR (either incarnation)? Or how about the school voucher program -- is that an inherently flawed and unethical plan because it was passed through the budget process without a single independent public hearing on it?

The details of the Dem plan will get released soon enough -- the JS says today -- and there will be plenty of public discussion on it before anything gets to the governor's desk, which is particularly true considering that won't happen until 2009 at the earliest. In the end, this tactic is about getting more public attention for the plan, not less.

June 25, 2007  

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