Sunday, January 20, 2008

Health care an issue in upcoming Alaska elections

People running for office in Alaska are getting tough questions from their audiences on the campaign trail, apparently. Phil Munger at Progressive Alaska observed this when Ethan Berkowitz addressed the Mat-Su Democrats:
Berkowitz handled an array of questions fairly deftly until the talk turned to reform of our failing medical care structures. He's the least progressive of the three Dems on this, and struggled in his earnest efforts to answer some sweeping questions from the audience, with answers which wouldn't really provide solutions.

Berkowitz is right that medical care reform is a very complex set of problems with no easy answer for one community, let alone for the entire state or for our country. When he talked of waste, inefficiency and greed as being the major systemic flaws, though, his suggestions that we can tweak our way out of this dilemma didn't resonate at all with the audience.
David Sirota writes about alternatives being proposed in Washington state and Wisconsin: publicly controlled not-for-profit health care systems. Proposals like this could be adapted for Alaska, although we'd need to look at what is appropriate here.


editor said...

Everyone needs to take Philip Munger's observations with a grain of salt. Philip is working for Diane Benson's campaign (Berkowitz's primary challenger), and his posts are always biased against Berkowitz.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

Of course; one always has to take a blogger's comments with a grain of salt. Blogging journalism is opinion journalism, after all. (And actually, I thought that the rest of his post was very positive about Berkowitz.) Still, I suspect that many of the progressive candidates out there, state or national, are going to be way too timid in their approach to a change in our health care system. If we went to a single-payer healthcare system, or socialized healthcare, that would all but eliminate the income stream for a very prosperous segment of business. Insurance companies, et cetera, aren't going to lie down and play dead. They'll fight any reforms or candidates that cut them out of the money stream.

Philip Munger said...

dear "editor,"

Your observation that I'm engaged in Diane Benson's campaign is correct. But I think that Ethan would stand by the accuracy of my comments on last Friday's Mat-Su Egan dinner.

If you can cite a specific example of "his posts are always biased against Berkowitz," I'll accept your criticism as being valid.

editor said...

Berkowitz has always been strong on Health care.

The relevant text of House Bill 396 that Berkowitz proposed in the 24th legislature creates a health care commission -- in addition he proposed specific legislation for the creation of health care courts and to support electronic records keeping. This is about as Progressive as you can get.

Here's the relevant text of the bill Berkowitz proposed:

Sec. 44.19.277. Powers and duties of the commission. (a) The commission shall develop strategies and recommendations to improve public health and health care and to reduce health care costs for state businesses and residents. The strategies and recommendations must address

(1) the establishment of an affordable, effective, and quality health care system;
(2) access to affordable health care;
(3) individual responsibility for personal health and wellness;
(4) disease prevention and management;
(5) workforce shortages among health care providers;
(6) cost shifting by health care providers caused by insufficient reimbursement or lack of insurance;
(7) the need for courts with specialized jurisdiction to consider health issues;
(8) improvements in public health;
(9) the public availability of health care cost information; and
(10) other issues considered appropriate by the commission.

(b) In carrying out the duties under (a) of this section, the commission shall
(1) hold public hearings throughout the state;
(2) identify the reasons for rising health care costs in the state;
(3) obtain advice and information from experts and other interested
(4) review other states' actions taken to improve health care and reduce health care costs; and
(5) consider past state efforts to improve health care, including the
1993 report of the Health Resources and Access Task Force.

This is ACTION, and not an empty campaign promise.

Philip Munger said...


Nice legislation. It didn't pass. If by discussing this, Ethan is forced to be more specific about health care reform, I'll feel good. He hasn't proposed anything similar to HB 396 in his US House appearances so far. Perhaps he should.

BTW, Ethan reads Progressive Alaska, and at last Friday's Egan Dinner in Wasilla, commented quite favorably about the blog in general.

In the remote chance that Berkowitz defeats Benson in August, I'll be signing up to help him the following day and sending as much money to his campaign as my wife and I can afford.

editor said...

Hi Philip -

Both Benson and Berkowitz will make excellent candidates vs. Don Young, and it's good to know you'll be supporting the primary winner, as will I.

In Benson's last internal poll, they had Berkowitz performing stronger than Benson vs. Young, and Berkowitz also ahead in the polls vs. Benson. Clearly Berkowitz has the best chance of making Alaska Young-free.

And yes - you do have a great blog.

Neil Davis said...

Dear "editor"

Deirdre Helfferich (who is primarily responsibe for setting up this blog) and I are considering requiring persons posting to reveal their actual names. Would this deter you from posting to this blog? If you prefer to answer by e-mail, mine is
Neil Davis

Neil Davis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.