Taking a page from Former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s play book, State Rep. Dennis Arakaki, D-Kalihi, introduced legislation that he says will provide “universal healthcare,” better health-care coverage and reduced costs for Hawaii’s employers and employees.

He did not say specifically how the health-care coverage will be paid for, i.e. large monthly tax increases as proposed in the long-term care legislation now being debated at the Legislature, but he says the program should be run by the state and provide healthcare for all at taxpayers’ expense.

Universal health-care advocates like Arakaki used the same argument to push the 1974 Hawaii Pre-paid Healthcare Act, which mandates businesses pay for health coverage for their employees who work more than 19 hours a week. The mandate was supposed to be a 50-50 partnership between business owners and employees, but instead became a one-way burden for employers who now pay all or the majority of premiums for their employees and the families of their employees because of the way the law is written.

The projected universal coverage has continued to decline with only an estimated 85 percent of Hawaii’s population covered by health insurance down from a high in the low cost premium days of the 1980s of 96 percent. That is because today there are fewer health-care providers in Hawaii, only three — HMSA, HMAA and Kaiser — down from nearly a dozen a decade earlier and premiums are higher surging at double-digit rates annually.

Business owners, who already operate in one of the worst business climates in the nation, say this is the single worst and most expensive mandate on business. They say the increasing health-care costs are driving them out of business and preventing them from covering themselves and their families in favor of their employees.

Now Arakaki and several of his liberal colleagues want to give this state government that has caused through regulation and mandates this health-care crisis in Hawaii, even greater powers with what amounts to a mandatory, single-payer tax that continues the government’s one-size fits all, no choice delivery of healthcare.

Is he a hero or a scoundrel for this proposal? You vote.

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