Delaware Democrats start the debate over single payer health idea for the state

The debate over healthcare will remain on the center of the national stage from now until the elections. In January 2013, the spotlight could shift to the Delaware legislature.

State Representatives John Kowalko, D-Newark South, and Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, put a bill (HB 392) into this session of the state legislature calling for a single payer healthcare plan. They introduced the bill knowing it would sit without any action this year.

However, just the phrase “single payer” prompted leaders of the state Republican party to condemn the measure. House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf put out a statement to reinforce there would not be any hearings during this current legislative session. His statement read: “This is an incredibly complex piece of legislation with a lot of moving parts. I want to be absolutely clear: this bill will not be worked this session. We will not be considering the bill before session ends on June 30. Even the bill’s sponsors have stated that they have no intention of running the bill, but introduced it as a way to begin dialogue on the issue.”

The Delaware Tea Party organization has a website up to begin lobbying against the bill.

Jaques knows a state health care plan will be controversial. “Health Care affects everybody from the baby who just had its first breath to people in their twilight years. It’s a different situation that affects everybody differently”, he said.

Jaques said he did get a commitment from Rep. Michael Barbieri, D-Newark, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee that there will be statewide hearings next year to get input on a potential bill. In the meantime, they are soliciting questions between now and then in the hopes of coming up with answers before those hearings.

Kowalko said he and Jaques are introducing the bill now as a rough outline where people can debate it back and forth.

He said he liked the ideas of Dr. Floyd McDowell and the group, Delaware Unified and Civil Association, which called for a single payer health plan in Delaware over seven years ago. Jaques said when the current bill was introduced they ran the numbers used to support the McDowell plan with the Secretary of Finance and the Controller General’s office and the numbers did seem to hold up.

“All Americans deserve the right to health access,” Kowalko said. “We just want to help people.”

The full interview with Kowalko and Jaques can be seen on “First,” this Friday at 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on WHYY-TV.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal