Health plans say price tag is too high for Kuehl’s health care bill

As a Capitol Right of Passage, this week Senator Sheila Kuehl, once again, brought forth her proposal for government-run health care before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senator Kuehl has remained committed to her vision and must be commended for her dedication to health care for all. We just part ways on how we get there.

While the single payer debate has spanned several years, there is a new component this year that we have not seen in years past. Based on an analysis from the independent Legislative Analysts' Office, we know that SB 840 would create $42 billion in new debt in its first full year of operation. The worst-case scenario estimates a $65 billion shortfall after only one year.

Erasing this debt means a 16 percent tax on employers and employees. Who can sustain such a tax increase when so many are facing home foreclosures and gas and grocery prices that are through the roof? There are better ways to ensure everyone has access to health care.

Not only will single payer health care break the bank, but under the proposed system, when costs spiral out of control, our access to health care will be controlled by the government. The legislation calls for cut backs on the amount of care we will be allowed to receive, raising co-pays and withholding payment to doctors for their services.

Looking across the border to Canada's government-sanctioned system reveals that Canadians wait 4-1/2 months to see a general practitioner. And, the wait times to see a specialist are almost 75 percent longer than 10 years ago. This, after the Canadian government infused an extra $36 billion into the system over the past 10 years.

Rather than raises taxes that don't cover the costs for the system and rationing health care, we can look at other alternatives to ensure more Californians have access to health care.

First, we must look at the root cause for rising health care costs. Today, 87 cents of the health care dollar goes to medical care. And, year after year, medical costs are increasing 2-to-3 times faster than general inflation. If we can to curb costs and make health care accessible to more people, we need to control the skyrocketing cost of medical care.

The California Association of Health Plans has a plan for making health care more affordable. By looking to new innovations, different ways to provide health care, basing more medical care on best practices and evidence, and improving our own personal health, we can slash the rising cost of care.

For instance, the Institutes of Medicine issued a ground-breaking report that found we do not receive the medical care we need 45 percent of the time. Too many of us are over-treated. It is not good for our health and it is not good for our pocketbooks. If more care was based on sound medical evidence, we could improve our health outcomes and reduce costs.

Additionally, obesity is the second preventable cause of death in the U.S. If we lower obesity rates, we will have fewer cases of chronic disease, like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, improving health and reducing spending on these costly diseases.
Health care for all is the right goal. Government-run health care just doesn't solve a lot of the challenges we face today. We look forward to working with Senator Kuehl and the Legislature on some new, innovative ways to bring down costs and give more people access to health care.

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