With over 6.5 million residents uninsured, California has the largest population of individuals without healthcare coverage in the United States. About $186 billion has been spent on California’s healthcare system last year alone, yet a quarter of its residents still lack affordable healthcare coverage. Over three quarters of the uninsured in California are working families who have been rejected for coverage or aren’t offered one through their workplace. Obviously, California’s healthcare system needs an effective change made for the long term for these hard working families who deserve it.
Fortunately there are three major proposals out there offering change. They are the Governor’s Health Care Security and Cost Reduction Act, Senator Kuehl’s SB 840 "The California Universal Healthcare Act” and Assembly member Nunez’s AB 8. These three have a common goal, to find a solution to this broken system, and fix it for good; however they differ in many ways.
The Governor’s proposal is budget neutral and flexible however it fails to effectively address quality and cost controls since it does not eliminate insurer’s excessive profit margins as the SB 840 does. The AB 8 covers only an estimated 3.4 million of uninsured Californians at a time (Gruber) whereas Senator Kuehl’s plan is universal and covers all. Both the Governor’s proposal and the AB 8 use a system which includes the private insurance companies, the government and employers; whereas the SB 840’s system is comprised of solely the government reducing costs by as much as 50%.
The health care finance system currently spends nearly half of each dollar on administrative and clinical waste, excessive drug prices and fraud. The SB 840 responds to this waste by streamlining administration, using state purchasing power to negotiate discounts on the price of pharmaceutical and medical equipment and establishing an Inspector General for Health Care with strong investigative tools to uncover fraud. The Lewin Group forecasts that this insurance model would save the state $44 billion dollars in the first ten years reducing the budget deficit of California which is caused partly by healthcare misspending.
In a nutshell the SB 840 healthcare system is secure: all California residents are covered for life. Offers choice: everyone has the freedom to choose their doctor or integrated health system. Provides many benefits: coverage includes hospital, medical, surgical, mental health; dental and vision care; prescription drugs and medical equipments, diagnostic testing, hospice care and more. Encourages high quality: by utilizing financial incentives that support high quality care and investing in needed health care infrastructure. Practices efficiency: the system consolidates hundreds of insurance plans, both public and private into one, saving the state, patients and providers billions of dollars each year. Shares Responsibility: payment of an affordable premium by employers, employees and individuals supports the health care system we all need at some time. Controls Costs: by deploying efficient administration, purchasing drugs and durable medical equipment in bulk, and coordinating capital expenditures (OneCareNow).
These are the reasons why I vote for proposition SB 840, the efficiency and the remarkable cost cutting combined with the high quality of service and shared responsibility is appealing to me. I support a system where individuals, employers and the state share responsibility, without the mediation of insurance companies, which unlike the state, are profit-oriented. Thirty percent of every dollar that goes to insurance companies pays for their administrative costs and income. In 2005 the 20 largest HMOs in the U.S. made $10.8 billion in profits. Under a single-payer health car system, savings add up from eliminating this overhead (Labornotes).
My ideas for changing the healthcare system in California would be to introduce a program similar to SB 840, but with more emphasis on preventive health care. This can be achieved by opening gyms for the public, providing tax rebates to individuals who practice a healthy lifestyle (measured by how many times they use the gym), banning smoking in public areas and placing limits on pollution emissions.