Wednesday, July 12, 2006

California single-payer health care?

The Health Care For All Californians Act (SB 921)

The Act would cover all Californians under a single health plan that is administered and funded by the state. The program would replace all current public-sector insurance systems for Californians including: Medicare, Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, and military dependent coverage. It would also replace private health insurance plans in the state (with the exception of insurance purchased to cover services not covered by the Act. [sic, close parentheses ?] However, the medical component of the workers compensation system would be unchanged and would continue to operate separately for work related illnesses. The program would be financed with current government health care funding for discontinued programs, a payroll tax to replace employer benefits plans and other taxes to replace the premiums currently used to finance health care in the state.

The program’s benefits package covers a broader range of services than are now covered under many health plans. The program would cover medically appropriate hospital inpatient and outpatient care, emergency room visits, physician services (including preventive care), prescription drugs, lab tests, mental health and substance abuse treatment, eyeglasses and other services. The program would also cover home health and adult daycare services for the aged and/or disabled. Dental care would be covered along with vision exams and hearing. It would not cover cosmetic surgery, some orthodontia and private hospital rooms (unless medically necessary).

Link to PDF document.

In this study we estimated the impact of covering all California residents under a single health plan. The proposal that we analyzed is the "Health Care for All Californians Act: SB 921", (hereafter referred to as the "Act") introduced in February of 2003, with clarifications provided by the authors’ staff through April 30, 2004. This analysis does not reflect any changes to the bill that may have occurred since that time.

The program would cover a broad range of health services for all California residents, including an estimated 4.7 million Californians who are currently uninsured. Premium payments to insurers would be eliminated for employers and individuals, except for coverage of services not covered by the program. Instead, the system would be funded with current spending for government health programs and new taxes to replace the premiums eliminated under the program.

I don't link much to KOS, but this is important. The diarist is not too optimistic but his remarks are worth a read.
This phenomenon is not going to make the mainstream media, so I'm going to have to bring you up-to-date. I'm also going to tell you about ways to help...The Massachusetts bill [PDF] that passed a few months ago was phony-baloney "reform;" the media slobbered all over it, but it did nothing to curb healthcare costs, because it left private insurers in the loop. The single-payer model strips corporate profiteers out of healthcare funding and it replaces them with a single, publicly accountable government agency. It's real, substantive healthcare reform, in other words.
The insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies don't like single-payer. [This may be the most understated sentence I have read in 2006. Hoots.]
If Schwarzenegger doesn't sign the bill this time around, or if he isn't confronted with that choice quite yet, we'll get him later. And when we finally do get a gubernatorial signature on that bill, if not before, the well-heeled insurance lobby will be right there to sponsor a single-payer ballot measure in hopes they can kill it off.

That's where a grassroots revolt comes in. We're plugging away at building that, but it's another story.

If you're in California and you support universal, government-sponsored healthcare, July is a crucial month to contact your Assemblyperson and ask him or her to vote for SB 840. If your Assemblyperson already supports SB 840, then offer thanks. Also, Assemblypeople will be in their home offices this month. Call yours up and invite him or her to coffee, to discuss SB 840. Better still, bring a few friends from the district to your coffee date, and all of you tell your healthcare horror stories--in any collection of Californians, there are going to be a few of these. This is cost-effective, citizen/voter lobbying, and it's what we need to pass SB 840. In particular, we need it to convince "moderate" Democratic legislators, who indeed might not otherwise support this "radical" reform.

If you're outside California, and you'd love to see a state break the "ice of reform" by enacting single payer, call up your friends and loved ones in the Golden State this month and ask them to get involved.

Again, whatever happens to the bill when it reaches the Govinator's desk, the fact that it might make it clear through the legislature is a momentous development the corporate media isn't going to make near enough of. In terms of future citizen efforts for single-payer healthcare, it's a milestone that cannot be reversed.

Thanks to Leila for the link.

Lots of homework went into this bill. Lots of details in the referenced document. Unfortunately, anything that might threaten the profitibility of insurance and drug companies is certain to generate an avalanche of well-funded, well-coordinated opposition. It is some small blessing (and perhaps not accidental) that thanks to geography California is as far from Washington as possible without moving into the Pacific. This distance may be politically significant, but I don't know.

Excuse me?
What's that you say?
Something about snowballs...?
In hell...huh?

That's okay. I'm an old hand at uphill fights.

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