Sunday, April 01, 2007

What’s the One Thing Big Business and the Left Have in Common?

The struggle to establish universal health insurance, dormant for more than a decade, is back. Should it actually succeed over the next few years, historians may trace that triumph, at least in part, to a news conference on Capitol Hill — and to a most unusual figure who participated in it. The event took place in early December, just after the Democrats won back control of Congress. Its sponsor was Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who was unveiling what would become the first universal-coverage proposal of the new political alignment. [...]

Among those flanking Wyden onstage were other longtime advocates of universal coverage, including Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union. He, too, paid homage to the traditional rationale, arguing that Wyden’s plan “sets down a moral test: Why doesn’t every American have the right to the same health care as the president, the vice president, 535 members of Congress and three million federal workers?”

One of the men alongside Wyden and Stern stood out, however, politically if not visually. He was Steve Burd, chairman and C.E.O. of Safeway supermarkets. Nobody has ever accused Burd of having a bleeding heart: a former management consultant with a graduate degree in economics, he became notorious two years earlier when he helped lead California grocers into battle with their labor unions over employee medical benefits. Burd insisted that the unions accept skimpier insurance to save his company money. [...]

Yet here was Burd in Washington, arm in arm with one of labor’s most passionate leaders, endorsing a plan in which the government would guarantee affordable, high-quality insurance to every single American. “Our nation is facing a crisis that requires immediate attention,” Burd declared. “Working together, business, labor, government, consumer groups and health-care providers can collectively solve this problem.” And while the “working together” line had the feel of boilerplate, Burd meant it. In the year that Wyden took constructing his proposal, Burd was quietly advising him; eventually they or their staffs were conferring almost every week.

I don't care about the details of providing universal health care. I suspect that single payer would be better for us, but if individual mandates improves the current situation, super. But people deserve to be free from the fear of losing access to health care.

And think of how this can encourage people to start their own businesses. Health care is a big factor in a person's decision about employment. If a person and his family can be covered outside of employment, I suspect a lot more people would take a risk on starting their own shop.

Oh, and I don't know why the author of this article didn't get a quote from The Left. Don't let that detract from the rest of the article.


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