Wednesday, November 5, 2008

2008 Election Recap

Wow! Eighty percent of registered voters in Washington State showed up at the polls yesterday. The 2008 elections were a Republican’s nightmare, since high voter turn out typically means higher Democratic voters. America saw record numbers of voters across the country. Especially heart warming was the increase in new voter registration. As someone who has never missed a presidential election, I applaud this improvement in public participation in our democracy.

There were a number of issues that I blogged on in the past year, which were impacted by yesterday’s election(s). Here are the highlights:

Death with Dignity Approved
Former Governor Booth Gardner’s Death with Dignity Initiative in Washington State was approved with a 58% majority. This means that terminally ill patients, who obtain at least two medical opinions, can elect to end their suffering with the administration of lethal drugs.

McCain defeated
Senator McCain’s health care platform to eliminate the tax-free nature of employer provided health care through an individual health care credit program hit a sour note with the public. As I predicted in May, this health policy approach contributed to his defeat by freshman Senator Barak Obama.

Obama’s Health Care Platform
President elect Obama favors a "play or pay" approach for employers to provide health insurance coverage to all employees. Large employers would be required to offer health insurance to their workers or else they would be assessed a tax of 6% of payroll, which would go into a health care purchasing fund. Small employers would receive federal assistance to obtain health care for their workers, through regional purchasing cooperatives. Barak’s plan is to keep the public/private partnership we now have for health care, but to strengthen efficiencies and improve quality. He is an advocate of renegotiating Medicare prescription drugs under one federal contract, which would lower the cost of prescription medications for seniors. The pharmaceutical industry is most assuredly gearing up for heavy lobbying in Washington. Though President elect Obama does not favor mandating health insurance, his plan does include a series of provisions that would help millions more Americans have access to health care. This process will alleviate some of the pressure on hospitals, which have been burdened with the lion’s share of unfunded care.

Rossi Defeated
The impetus for my original blog was Washington State gubernatorial candidate, Dino Rossi’s lack of support for basic health care for poor children under the federal SCHIP expansion last year. Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire, a strong supporter of health care subsidies for the needy, defeated Mr. Rossi. Governor Gregoire expanded primary health care for poor children in Washington State under her first term and we can all breathe a sigh of relief this will not be undercut.

In conclusion, the public has spoken and it does see a role for government support and advocacy for its citizens, which is a reversal of the Bush Administration’s policies. Let us not forget to look at improving health care delivery efficiencies, not the least of which include the over use of technology and renegotiating Medicare drug coverage. At least with Mr.Obama we have someone who will listen to all parties before making decisions.

This article was written by Roberta E. Winter, MHA, MPA and may be reprinted with her permission.

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