Opinion

Washington’s Health Care Grifters

5 min read

How one group of “activists” is trying to scam the elderly and chronically ill out of their money

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting exposure of the failures of capitalism and a commodified health care system, has renewed and significantly increased support in the concept of single-payer health care. A recent poll showed that 55% of Americans support Bernie Sanders’ plan for Medicare for All.

However, here in Washington State—one of the hardest-hit states—opportunistic proponents of Whole Washington, a plan for a so-called state-based public option, are seizing upon fear to renew their efforts to gain support beyond a fringe minority.

Some members of the group are posting on social media encouraging supporters to email Gov. Jay Inslee and ask him to enact their plan under RCW 43.06.220(2). They fail to mention that emergency executive acts under this law are limited to 30 days unless extended by the legislature and that the plan wouldn’t even start to cover anyone for at least 1-4 years after the law is enacted.

This is yet another liberal branding exercise that is either lacking a basic understanding of the law or one that is intentionally misleading.

Much has been said about the group’s proposal, including the fact that it’s nearly a word-for-word copy of an outdated 25-year-old failed proposal by Health Care For All Washington’s Healthcare Security Trust. And while it has also been pointed out that health care is counter-cyclical and would bankrupt nearly any state (states must meet a balanced budget and cannot deficit spend like the federal government), Whole Washington continues to promote its plan and solicit donations from the elderly and chronically ill.

If activists backing the proposal actually wanted people to have health care as a human right, and not simply push the state into the commodified health care business as another insurance company, they would be putting their energy into supporting Medicare for All and other federal level plans. A simple side by side comparison makes it pretty clear why.

How do we pay for it?

Medicare for All:Whole Washington:
ONE of the following:
• 7.5% income-based premium paid by employers
• 4% income-based premium paid by families
• Ending industry tax breaks

Plus optional tax changes:
• Progressive income tax
• Progressive estate tax
• Wealth tax (on the top 0.1%)
• Ending offshore tax shelters
• Fees for Wall Street speculation
• Repeal corporate accounting gimmicks
ALL of the following:
• 8.5% capital gains tax
• 2% income tax on 2/3rds of all “gig” contract workers and self-employed workers
• $134 monthly premium paid by every resident of the state

What do we get?

Medicare for All:Whole Washington:
All health and medical expenses covered.Basic level of health care.

When do we get it?

Medicare for All:Whole Washington:
A multi-year phase-in with the most at-risk covered immediately.Coverage would start after taxes begin to be collected in 1-4 years.

Effects to the for-profit insurance industry?

Medicare for All:Whole Washington:
Private for-profit insurance would be eliminated and health care would be administered by the federal government as a right to all Americans.Washington State would administer a fund to pay for-profit providers; essentially the state would become a large “basic” health insurance company funded by taxes, but nothing else would change.

Downsides?

Medicare for All:Whole Washington:
Many jobs in the insurance industry would be lost due to there no longer being a need. This is addressed with a re-training program.In a recession, this plan would easily bankrupt the state, or at the very least, force coverage cuts due to loss of employment-centered revenue streams at the same time as increased need for coverage.

Additionally, this would not actually cover anyone that the state’s AppleHealth Medicaid Expansion doesn’t already cover; it would simply create an expensive, underfunded “basic” state-run insurance company open to all residents.

Because of RCW 82.32.805 and 82.32.808, the proposed taxes (and only revenue streams provided by the proposal) would expire in 10 years and need to be re-authorized by the state legislature (subject to repeal by voters).

Also to be considered:

Under Whole Washington’s plan, some taxable income and assets would count as capital gains taxes would also be collected under existing state B&O taxes, so about 50% of these taxes would be duplicated, therefore the “projected revenue” provided by their proposal is inflated by 200%.

The year the law would go into effect would not apply to taxes for that year, so for the first year or year and a half, the program would see no revenue from capital gains. Additionally, their own proposal creates exemptions for businesses with fewer than 500 employees as well as for certain industries, such as logging. This would mean that Weyerhaeuser, a major polluter that made $6.5 billion in 2019, would end up contributing $0 to the plan.

All of this considered, the claim of a low $134/mo premium is vastly under-estimated. The state’s fiscal analysis points to premiums in-line with what people already pay.

And if this wasn’t enough to show that the individuals behind Whole Washington are totally unqualified and not to be taken seriously, other members in the group are now claiming on social media that their plan was “approved” by the State Department of Revenue. Their evidence for this bold claim? The mandatory non-partisan fiscal analysis, which is required for every bill in the legislature. This isn’t an approval so much as an acknowledgment, and a campaign claiming that the state’s required fiscal analysis is an endorsement is technically breaking the law.

Additionally, the state’s analysis actually says that the plan would be bad for self-employed contract workers. And with a state full of contract gig and tech workers, this spells disaster.

This is the latest in years of false and misleading claims from an organization that has one purpose: serving as a make-work program for political grifters who have infiltrated the single-payer health care movement here in Washington.

Questionable finances

State disclosure reports from the PDC show the group has paid the majority of its large disbursements to “campaign managers” Cindy Black, Jim Goettler, and Georgia Davenport. Jim is the author of two how-to books providing tips on creating a profitable non-profit. As of the publishing of this article, the campaign managers have not filed last month’s required reports but have so far paid themselves over $9,000.

They’ve also spent a sizeable amount of funds on strange items, which may or may not be allowed under state law, including $24 on items promoting the delusional conspiracy theory that Donald Trump is a “Russian asset” and working for Russian President Vladimir Putin, $241 on red hats, and $278 on “Bernie buttons” (even though they do not support his key health care legislation). By comparison, so far in 2020, they’ve spent just $44 on flyers directly promoting their actual proposal.

Health care is a human right, not a commodity or business opportunity. It’s also expensive and complex, and can’t be done on a state-by-state basis by a rag-tag group of “activists” with zero knowledge of the law or today’s health care standards. Progressives, leftists, socialists, and anyone else claiming to care about getting health care for the working class needs to shift their efforts into supporting a national Medicare for All plan…

…or admit their efforts are purely performative, and they’re simply in it for the money and clout.