Erika Klein

Los Angeles County High School for the Arts

People must be in good health—as well as confident that their health will be restored should they have an accident or contract a disease—in order to fully enjoy their lives. Therefore, healthcare is one of the most important services the government can provide. California should definitely provide healthcare coverage to everyone in the state, beginning as soon as possible. Currently, California is spending an inordinate amount of money—$186 billion last year, in fact—without even giving healthcare to an entire one-fifth of the state’s population. There must be an immediate change to ensure one hundred percent universal healthcare.

There are presently three possible new healthcare plans from the state of California, one from the governor and two from the state government. First, Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan guarantees that everyone can get insurance no matter their personal circumstances, as well as requires that every Californian have health insurance. However, everyone must buy their insurance themselves, a task that I think many individuals would find onerous. Additionally, healthcare should ideally be free to everyone; instead of being required to go out and buy insurance, people should be entitled to and ideally provided with free healthcare automatically. The second plan, the California government’s legislation AB 8, fails to cover all residents and is thus inappropriate. I think that the final, third proposal—the California Senate’s SB 840—is the model healthcare reform and the one most likely to be popular and successful long term.

Senate Bill 840 first guarantees automatic universal healthcare coverage to all people residing in California, even including “undocumented immigrants” (chcf.org). In addition, it would provide the normal patient services and drugs, but also extend its care to mental health services, optometry, dental services, and adult day care, while allowing people to choose their own providers. Next, this bill would create a government system that would be the sole payer for health insurance, replacing all other health insurers, including private ones. It would also establish a Health Insurance Policy Board that would support an elected Health Insurance Commissioner. In this way, the government could maintain overall control and surveillance over the system. Although this control would increase the state government’s power, it would provide a uniform rule to sustain the healthcare system, making it ultimately successful, especially if there were some checks and balances on the system to keep the government from abusing its new power.

However, the biggest problem with the Senate Bill 840 is that it fails to name a principal source of funding. Although it does claim that the money from all the previous healthcare systems, such as Medicare, could go to support this new single healthcare system, that probably would not pay for the extra services it is planning to provide, nor all of the people who would be using the system (since there are many people currently who are not covered at all, and whose costs therefore are not included in any of existing the healthcare systems). Therefore, additional funding is necessary to support this healthcare system. I think that this could best by provided by individual people, as employers should not have to pay for healthcare coverage, and the state is already running a deficit. Although free healthcare is the ideal, that cannot always be reached. It would be fair that if everyone got the same healthcare coverage, everyone could pay the exact same small amount to support it. The amount of money should not be a proportion of each individual’s income, but instead an identical modest amount that all individuals could afford and must pay unless their income is below a certain level.