Take a stand on health care

Published on

Visalia Times-Delta (California)

Where do you stand on the issue of health care?

If you are among the more than 6.8 million people living in California who are without health insurance, you have some serious thinking to do.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau data released Monday, Americans with annual incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 per year saw the biggest increase in uninsured rates, up to 8.3 million, an increase of 600,000 people. And 800,000 more people with annual incomes more than $75,000 are now uninsured. So what we might say, it’s a tough world out there, we do what we can, and in an emergency, we go to the local emergency room where we meet others like ourselves who cannot afford medical attention.

But do we really have to settle for these Third World conditions in our country? No, we do not. In response to this desperate situation that only creates an impossible dilemma for the middle class, SB 840 (Kuehl), the California Health Insurance Reliability Act, determined – following several independent professional studies – that the state of California can provide all its citizens with complete, quality medical coverage, for life, for less, while saving Californians a hefty $8 billion per year. A commissioner chosen by the governor and approved by the Senate would administer this single-payer plan. California would negotiate the price of pharmaceuticals and durable equipment and pass the savings to the patient.

SB 840 is a total reform bill – not a tricky patch job, no make-your-head-spin phrasing – and the client deals directly with the doctor or health-care provider of his/her choice.

Opponents of this bill will describe this bill to you as another “socialized medicine” scheme when, in fact it is expanding the market to include more than 35 million residents of California. Now, there is free enterprise. But there is one major difference between this insurance plan that is responsive to client needs, and the thousands of wasteful for-profit plans it seeks to replace: SB 840 attends to your needs first and seeks to hold costs under control; the other plans, frenzied in their creative strategies to make money, assault our anemic pocketbook. There is a better way: SB 840 reimbursement to health-care providers would improve dramatically, eliminate the cumbersome paperwork, and encourage greater free market competition. Its benefits are many: Please see www.healthcareforall.org for details.

There is not much that is wrong with the picture just described. SB 840 is good for California, good for businesses, good for schools, and most of all, good for us in the Central Valley. Consider, for example, how it gets rid of that contentious exercise of negotiating for medical benefits; think of the many dollars and hours cities and counties save when they choose this plan. Think of the effect preventive and timely care it will have on the general well being of our community – and the infusion of dollars that will certainly make their way into our energetic and growing healthcare industry. Most importantly, this bill has provisions for use in monitoring services, that prevent politicians from raiding its coffers, and that keep prices from escalating out of control.

SB 840 should not be ignored. The Assembly passed it; the Senate passed it; and it is now waiting for the governor’s signature. We can be sure that the majority of all legislators had a chance to study SB 840; after all, it survived no fewer than four years of scrutiny and debate. It is also worth remembering that when the majority of legislators approved it, in both the Assembly and the Senate, they approved it with their constituency in mind – and that’s the majority of all Californians. But SB 840 sits on the governor’s desk, and it is there that it will live or die; the decision is his alone.

Gov. Schwarzenegger says he favors health insurance for the people of California, but one has to wonder what he has in mind. This is to be expected: He chooses his affiliations and draws his political lines clearly. According to the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights (FTCR), the “health industry boosted [him] to nearly $100 million in campaign donations, with a $125,000 burst of contributions in August alone. The industry has given him $4 million overall.”

This is our governor – who then tries to explain his decision. SB 840, he decries, is socialized medicine, but he is wrong; he says this is a “government-run plan;” that would prevent the client from “choosing his own doctor,” and again, he is wrong; still, he takes the opportunity to push the divisive buttons of contention to stir ideological passions. He mischaracterizes SB 840 and disconnects from the real need: the desperate dilemma that families in California are experiencing; and this brings us to the question asked at the beginning of these observations: Where do you stand on the issue of health care?
The governor expressed his intention to veto SB 840. Shouldn’t we let him know where we stand?
Al Hernandez of Visalia is director of the OneCareNow campaign of Tulare/Kings Counties for universal health-care insurance.

Consumer Watchdog
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