Friday, July 31, 2009

Health Care Debate, a Denver Perspective

Missed in the national debate on national health care reform is the scandal of the on-going subsidy of Denver taxdollars to businesses which can’t or won’t provide health insurance for their workers. Let me explain how this tax shift takes place. After you hear the story, I hope it disturbs you as much as it does me.

In Denver, as the enforcement arm of the Prevailing Wage ordinance, the Denver Auditor's Office is aware that many contractors on Denver construction and other projects do not provide health insurance for their employees. And we regularly hear stories of what happens to many of these workers when injured or sick - they simply go to the Emergency Room at Denver Health. Denver taxpayers then pick up the health care cost for that company's workers. Do we even hear a thank you here? In the current debate on national health care, those who oppose reform don't mention this tax payer shift - this subsidized health care, this real version of socialized health care. Why? Because this tax shift is currently part of the unofficial but well-entrenched benefit system.

This ‘benefit’ has not been well documented nor adequately measured. In large part this is because it is difficult and time-intensive to quantify. However, Denver taxpayers have a right to know how much this health care tax shift in our city is costing them. That's transparency and accountability. This should be part of the debate, and I want to make sure the Denver taxpayers' voice is heard. So, while it will take some time to do so, we will be looking into this cost-shifting – unless of course the stars line up and the Congress moves on universal coverage and the question becomes moot. We could only hope.

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