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People need Health Savings Accounts–not social medicine

As the lead Republican on the Assembly Health Committee, I have had the
opportunity to work closely with my colleagues on many proposals to improve
California’s health care system.

I follow a simple principle: California has the best doctors and scientists
in the world, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t have the best medical care.
We must focus on keeping up with the changing times in California while
ensuring quality health services are delivered to hard-working families.

One proposal that would do this is Assembly Bill 661, by Republican
Assemblyman George Plescia, of La Jolla. This common-sense bill (and its
counterpart, Senate Bill 173 by Republican Senator Abel Maldonado, of San
Luis Obispo) would make health care more affordable to workers by creating
Health Savings Accounts. Such plans would encourage California’s workers to
save money for medical expenses on a tax-free basis. This bill would conform
to existing Federal Health Savings Account laws and would make it easier for
people to prepare their income taxes.

Not only would workers have the option to save for health care expenses, but
employers would have the ability to contribute to Health Savings Accounts on
behalf of their employees–a low-cost benefit that many employers would
embrace. It’s a win-win situation for all Californians.

The way I see it, any vehicle that encourages savings for health care is a
step in the right direction, and a reminder that each of us is responsible
for our basic needs and those of our family.

John C. Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, wrote
in his “Health Savings Accounts Will Revolutionize American Health Care,”
that the concept of HSAs “is not conservative or liberal. It’s an
empowerment idea.” Goodman also said that Health Savings Accounts should
“appeal to everyone who suspects that impersonal bureaucracies care less
about us than we care about ourselves.”

An impersonal bureaucracy is exactly what we would have to deal with if
socialized medicine were to become the law of the land in California, as one
lawmaker has proposed.

Senate Bill 840, by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, would create a
single-payer health care plan, in other words government-run health care
coverage for everybody. The money to run such a plan would come from the
already-drained pockets of taxpayers.

Proponents say this plan is necessary to correct California’s fragmented
health care system and deliver health care to all citizens.

I agree our system is not the well-oiled machine we want it to be, nor is it
in the state of ruin depicted by Kuehl and her allies. Changes are necessary
to keep up with the state’s ever-changing population, but a single-payer
health care plan would not serve as a magic cure-all for our health care
problems.

In fact, such a drastic transformation of one of California’s biggest
economic forces would actually create a health care disaster.

First, socialized medicine would do nothing more than create a monopoly by
the government. Without the incentives created by competition, a
single-payer system would likely give us a system with all the innovation,
compassion and efficiency of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Look at the state of health care in Canada, England, New Zealand and much of
Europe – all countries that offer single-payer health care – where waiting
for months on end is part of the “health care for all” deal.

In fact, 25 percent of patients undergoing elective surgery in those
countries are forced to wait more than four months before they see the
lights of the operating room according to the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver
think tank. The average Canadian patient waits more than eight weeks to see
a specialist and another nine weeks before getting treated.

In Quebec, the waiting game is so excessive that 10,000 breast cancer
patients sued 12 hospitals for causing them to wait eight weeks for
radiation therapy.

You would think after being put on hold for weeks and months on end, the
patients in these countries would at least receive top-notch care. Think
again. The average U.S. doctor sees about 2,000 patients a year, while the
average Canadian doctor squeezes in close to 3,100 patients. Quality care is
not what overworked, exhausted doctors deliver to ailing patients.

I am confident my colleagues will see SB 840 as an unwarranted measure that
would have ruinous effects on the state’s health care system. I am hopeful
they will vote in favor of responsible legislation such as AB 661 that will
arm California families with tools to make medical plans more attainable and
affordable.


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