People Power, January 17, 2015
by Hyung Nam, activist, educator, musician
Education and public sector unions would benefit from an Oregon state universal health care system funded by progressive taxes, that uses private providers, controls costs, protects current benefits, and delivers cost-effective, affordable, comprehensive care to every person living or working in Oregon regardless of health, income, age, or employment status. Rising healthcare costs and diminishing access threaten Oregon education and collective bargaining. Publicly-funded universal health care will protect high-quality public education from state budget strains caused by rising healthcare costs and will improve public health, lower costs, improve Oregon’s economy, and protect teachers from “Cadillac” taxes starting in 2018.
A. Universal public health insurance would directly benefit unions in bargaining struggles.1) If we do not have to make other sacrifices to get health care during contract negotiations, we will gain bargaining power. Without publicly-funded healthcare, we face increasing pressure to bargain away the quantity and quality of health coverage. Private health insurance premiums continue rise faster than inflation and our salaries. Bargaining table pressure to give on health care premium “cost sharing” will grow ever more intense. Holding the line on health benefits will make it harder to make or defend bargaining gains on wages/salaries, working conditions, retirement, and other matters. Pressure will increase to hollow out covered benefits, increase deductibles and co-pays and to drop family plans. A single payer/single risk pool, universal public health insurance would protect health care benefits from being bargained away.