Gilbert man backs state health care initiative - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Gilbert man backs state health care initiative

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Posted: Monday, January 29, 2007 1:22 am | Updated: 8:00 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Glenn Ray may not have won a seat in the Arizona Senate, but he’s not giving up his campaign for universal and physician-controlled health care. Ray, a Mesa Democrat who ran against Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, in the November legislative election, has begun a campaign that he said will lead to a voter initiative on the 2008 ballot.

It’s early in the process, and Ray plans to hold public forums throughout Arizona beginning in April in an attempt to get support and input from Arizona residents. His Arizonans For Responsible Healthcare political committee is in its infancy and in need of financial support.

His goal is similar to proposals floating about elsewhere in Arizona, in other states and even among early 2008 presidential candidates: To create a new agency that would operate in place of private insurance companies. Under Ray’s plan, a 2 percent flat tax would be applied across the board to state taxpayers, and business owners would be taxed 7 percent of employees’ salaries.

That would fund an insurance plan overseen by a board of health care workers and a state-level surgeon general, Ray said.

Only residents in the state at least three months would qualify for health care under the plan.

“I challenge people to talk about it; both sides (Republicans and Democrats) can sit down. I want people to see that this isn’t a flaky liberal issue,” Ray said. “I’m not a liberal by any means. I believe in God and country, I’m a National Guard soldier. But it’s time — we need to fix this.”

Rep. Phil Lopes, D-Tucson, is preparing to submit a similar proposal in the Arizona House.

He said he is counting on Ray’s idea, as well as a similar universal health care proposal gaining legs in Tucson, to help get legislators to take his bill seriously during this session.

But, he said, while polls and studies have recently showed residents are open to the idea, it’s a tough sell among Arizona politicians.

“People think this is a pretty radical idea,” Lopes said. “Some people think they don’t want their name attached to this radical of an idea.”

Lopes’ proposal, dubbed the Arizona State Healthplan, which failed to pass last year when offered for the first time, would create a new agency using the funds residents and companies now pay to private insurance providers.

That $30 billion, he said, could easily cover health care needs for all or at least the majority of Arizona’s 6 million residents, and provide benefits similar to current private insurance plans.

California passed a similar plan, but it was vetoed late last year.

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