January 8, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Charles Idelson, 510-273-2246
The California Nurses Association today said it welcomed the decision of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to address the state’s escalating healthcare crisis. But, said CNA President Deborah Burger, the sum of his proposals may ultimately amount to “little more than a fresh coat of paint on a collapsing house.”
CNA commended portions of the governor’s plan that would require health plans to end denials of coverage based on age or health status and assurance of health services for the undocumented. But, overall, “the package has a number of gaping holes,” said Burger.
These begin with the call to “criminalize the uninsured by forcing them to buy insurance, a plan that shifts the costs and risk from the insurers to individuals, won’t work for millions of Californians, and is a huge gift to the insurance industry,” said Burger.
“What we don’t see is any discussion of what type of health coverage people will buy. There are no limits on skyrocketing health premiums, no requirements on what will be included in the required plans, and a new call to deregulate existing public protections.”
Consequently, Burger said, “it’s likely many Californians will end up with cut-rate plans that discourage people from using their health coverage, have huge out-of-pocket costs, and expose them to financial ruin in the event of a serious illness or accident.”
Burger also criticized the proposal to shift some $2 billion in tax funds currently in tax money that now goes to hospitals to cover indigent care and use it to buy insurance for the uninsured. “It takes money used for direct delivery of care, and hands it to the insurance industry, losing off the top the 25% to 30% now consumed by the insurers’ administrative waste. It is also likely to escalate privatization of healthcare by reducing revenues for public hospitals and clinics, leading to more closures of public facilities.”
Additionally, she added, the plan fails to address price gouging by the pharmaceutical industry. The bill enacted last year provides for only voluntary reductions by the drug companies.
Much of the plan resembles the Massachusetts health plan, where only 300,000 are uninsured compared to California’s 6.5 million, and which is already experiencing problems in funding and assuring people sign up, Burger noted.
“Ultimately, this won’t fix what’s wrong with our healthcare system – the reliance on the market that will continue to put its profits and revenues above the health and well being of Californians.
“If the governor is truly committed to a goal of universal coverage, effective cost controls, and improving the quality of care, he should join us in supporting a single-payer system, the only way to achieve those goals.” A single-payer bill, SB 840 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, was vetoed by the governor last year. It will be reintroduced this year.