Passage of bill seen as election-year test for Schwarzenegger

 

The Democratic-controlled Legislature is on the verge of sending Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill that would create a state-run universal health care system, testing him on an issue that voters rate as one of their top concerns in this election year.

 

On a largely party-line 43-30 vote, the Assembly approved a bill by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, that would eliminate private medical insurance plans and establish a statewide health insurance system that would provide coverage to all Californians. The state Senate has already approved the plan once and is expected this week to approve changes that the Assembly made to the bill.

 

Schwarzenegger has said he opposes a single-payer plan like the one Kuehl's bill would create, but the governor has not offered his own alternatives for fixing the state's health care system. As many as 7 million people are uninsured in the state, and spiraling costs have put pressure on business and consumers.

 

"We know the health care in place today is teetering on collapse," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles. "We need to do something to improve it, to reform it, and this is what we are bringing to the table."

 

Schwarzenegger's office said it had no official position on the bill. The governor has said he would propose solutions to the state's health care crisis in his State of the State address next January if he is re-elected.

 

"I don't believe that government should be getting in there and should start running a health care system that is kind of done and worked on by government," Schwarzenegger said in July at a speech at the Commonwealth Club. "I think that what we should do is be a facilitator, to make the health care costs come down. The sad story in America is that our health care costs are too high, that everyone cannot afford health care."

 

The governor hosted a health care summit earlier this year, but no concrete proposals came from the meeting.

 

If he vetoes SB840, the governor will be reminded of his decision come election day in November, Kuehl said.

 

"I hope that the people of California will hang the albatross of bad health care around the governor's neck," she said.

 

Núñez said that while the governor has worked with Democrats on many issues this year, he is on the wrong side of this one.

 

"The biggest issue facing California today is health care," Núñez said. "This legislation represents yet another and the most important opportunity we have to say to the governor that he needs to embrace the Democratic agenda, just as he has done on prescription drugs and minimum wage."
Labor unions and Democrats will take part in a rally on Wednesday to urge Schwarzenegger to sign the bill.

 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides is not supporting the Kuehl bill.

 

"He supports moving toward universal health care by first covering all children and then requiring businesses to cover their employees," said Angelides spokesman Nick Pappas.

 

Kuehl called the passage of the bill historic because it was the first time both houses of the Legislature have passed a universal health care bill. SB840 must return to the Senate, which approved it once, 25-13, for concurrence before going to Schwarzenegger's desk.

 

"Every advance you can make for any cause is important," Kuehl said. "Most important, it gives hope for the people of California that this can be done."

 

SB840 would provide comprehensive medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug coverage to every California resident. Anyone could see any doctor or go to any hospital.

 

"SB840 creates a system of comprehensive health insurance benefits for all Californians that guarantees free choice of doctors and hospitals," Kuehl said. "It creates access for all Californians by steeply reducing administrative overhead and emphasizing preventative and primary care instead of endlessly cutting coverage and access to care or increasing consumer spending."

 

Republicans and insurance groups oppose the bill, saying it will create an inefficient government bureaucracy.

 

"This takes us in the wrong direction," said Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, R-Stockton. "This creates a government-run system akin to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Do we want health care taken care of by another bloated bureaucracy?"

 

The bill does not account for the costs of the program since it would take several years before any plan was up and running. The plan would create a commissioner and a blue-ribbon commission to examine how the structure would work. An analysis by the Lewin Group, an independent health care consulting firm, said the plan could be paid for with all of the money now being spent on health care.

 

That would mean combining all state and federal funds, along with business contributions and participant payments and co-payments. The report suggests that funding could come through an 8 percent payroll tax and a 3 percent individual income tax.

 

SB840 allows California to use its purchasing power to negotiate bulk rates for prescription drugs and durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, thus realizing an additional $2 billion in savings, Kuehl's office said.

 

But eliminating health care insurance plans would eradicate the groups that have the most experience with getting people insured and to doctors, said Chris Ohman, president and CEO of the California Association of Health Plans.

 

Ohman said other places that are trying universal health care -- such as Massachusetts and San Francisco -- are using health care plans to help facilitate the implementation. He said the insurance companies are in the best position to manage costs.

 

"If there isn't the focus and drive for advancing preventative programs, the sky's the limit in terms of what the costs will be," he said. "That's what health plans do."

 

A Public Policy Institute poll from September 2004 showed that 71 percent of likely voters said they are at least somewhat concerned about being able to afford health care. A slim majority of Californians, 53 percent, said they would be willing to pay more -- either through higher health insurance premiums or higher taxes -- to increase the number of people who have health insurance.

The plan

 

The health care measure would:

 

-- Eliminate private health insurance plans and create the California Health Insurance System.

 

-- Provide health care insurance for all Californians.

 

-- Guarantee patients the ability to choose their own doctors and hospitals.
-- Pool funds now being spent on health insurance and save money by reducing overhead and using leveraged buying power for things like prescription drugs.

 

-- Require separate legislation to establish financing of the system.

 

E-mail Lynda Gledhill at lgledhill@sfchronicle.com.
Page A - 1
URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/08/29/MNGBSKR3RA1.DTL

 


 

Bullet Points for Legislators

  • Single Payer saves money.  For the past 20 years, states have commissioned studies on different types of health care systems.   In EVERY case, single payer was shown to be the only way to cover everyone and the only system that saved money and controlled costs.

  • Publicly financed does not mean government run health care.  YOU have publicly finance health coverage, but the government does not make decisions regarding your health care.

  • Cost conscious patients often don't get the care they need.   Most decisions are made by the doctor in concert with the patient, but the patient relies on the doctor's knowledge to make a decision.  Expensive tests and treatments cannot be ordered by the patient, only the doctor.

  • Lifestyle choices are not what is fueling high costs in health care.   The United States ranks low in general health indicators, but high in good health habits.  We smoke less, drink less and consume less animal fat that many other countries with better health indicators and much lower health care costs.

  • Businesses can accurately determine their health care costs and are not subject to unanticipated large premium increases.

  • It will reduce labor costs due to a more efficient way of financing health care, eliminating much wasteful administration.

  • Workers' Compensation costs will be reduced, likely by half, due to the fact that everyone has health coverage and there is no need for the medical portion.

  • It reduces the need for part time employees and provides easier recruiting.  There are no pre-existing conditions or Cobra issues.

  • Eliminates the oversight of health benefits and bargaining health coverage with employees.

  • It creates healthier personnel and more stable employees, reduces absenteeism and eliminates employer health coverage complaints.

  • It reduces employee health related debt and personal bankruptcies.

  • It frees up family income that can be spent on other goods and services, thus stimulating the economy.

Tips for Writing Letters to Editor

Follow guidelines for your local paper (word count, submission instructions, etc.)

Frame your letter in relation to a recent news item Use state specific data whenever possible (let us know if you need help finding some!)

Address counter arguments

Be aware of your audience and emphasize how Medicare for All is good for ALL residents of the state

Criticize other positions, not people Include your credentials (especially if you work in the healthcare field)

Avoid jargon and abbreviations

Don’t overload on statistics and minor details

Cover only one or two points in a single letter

Avoid rambling and vagueness

DONATE HERE

Donations to SPAN Ohio help cover operating and lobbying expenses and are NOT tax deductible. To donate, click the DONATE button below. On the page that appears, type in the amount of your donation. If you want your donation to be recurring, check the box where it says "Make this a monthly donation." If this is a one-time donation, leave that box blank.Then click either "Donate with PayPal" (if you have an account) or."Donate with a Debit or Credit Card." Complete the transaction on the page that follows.

Donations to HCFAO go to our education fund and ARE tax deductible. To donate, click the Donate button below. On the page that appears, type in the amount of your donation. If you want your donation to be recurring, check the box where it says "Make this a monthly donation." If this is a one-time donation, leave that box blank.Then click either "Donate with PayPal" (if you have an account) or."Donate with a Debit or Credit Card." Complete the transaction on the page that follows.

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • Region 1 Meeting - Cleveland Mon. 29 Jan, 2018 (5:00 pm - 6:30 pm) North Shore AFL-CIO Office, 3250 Euclid Ave, 2nd floor - Note: enter parking lot from Prospect Ave. Enter building from re...
  • SPAN STATE COUNCIL MEETING Sat. 10 Feb, 2018 (10:00 am - 1:00 pm) First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus - 93 W Weisheimer Rd - Columbus OH
  • SPAN ANNUAL STATE CONFERENCE Sat. 28 Apr, 2018 (9:00 am - 3:00 pm) Quest Conference Center - 8405 Pulsar Place - Columbus OH
Add New Event Show Full Calendar