If all politics really is local, health care reform has a shot

Our local newspaper, the Brookline Tab has been filled lately with news of the town’s impending budget deficit and the consequences for town services. Today’s lead story is Fire chief flames station shutdown; warns response time could triple. Basically, the town may shut down one of its fire stations. Recent articles have discussed the need to cut the schools’ budgets. Not good.

There are variety of reasons that this town and many, many others (not to mention cities, states, and the Federal government) have budget problems, but health care costs for current employees and retirees is a big part of it. In my view a lot could be accomplished for the town’s finances by following private industry and being less generous with coverage. Meanwhile, a letter to the editor uses the budget problem to argue for single payer:

The gloom-and-doom article in the… TAB.. about Brookline’s $3.2 million budget shortfall… neglected to mention the easiest way to save money for the town and the commonwealth. We need single-payer health-care reform.

She goes on to lay out some arguments for single payer that I’m not sure follow directly from the budget issue, but it’s intriguing nonetheless that she’s made the linkage between the town budget and health care costs.
Most people in this town have health insurance and –despite the high and rising costs– aren’t too worried about losing it. But they will be hopping mad about fire station closures, school de-funding and other negative consequences. When it comes to making tradeoffs, I bet a lot of the towns’ citizens would favor doing something about health care costs rather than losing vital services or paying higher taxes. Count me among them.

March 15, 2007

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