News

Universal health care no longer a fantasy

It’s actually gratifying to see that–finally–conservatives in California
have decided they can no longer ignore the fact that our health-care system
is seriously disintegrating. It’s heartening to hear talk about ways to
solve the health-care crisis coming from a variety of political directions.

California now faces a number of serious health-care problems: Economic
pressures due to runaway health spending that is dramatically outpacing
other nations; declining health status for the general population, as a
fifth of our population lives without a consistent source of health
insurance; financial disaster for insured middle-class families in the event
of a serious illness, as benefits are gutted to make room for the massive
waste and profit of the current system; an epidemic of substandard care
because, instead of one health-care bureaucracy, we have hundreds–and it just
isn’t working.

Unfortunately, the solution offered by conservatives is naive and
ineffective: to solve runaway health-care spending with health-savings
accounts. This is their plan: Force people to save more in order to pay for
endlessly increasing premiums.

“Consumer driven health care,” which does nothing but increase prices for
health-care services in order to reduce utilization, can never work for one
simple reason: There is no limit to what all of us will pay to save the life
or the health of a loved one. We will pay whatever it takes; which is
exactly what we are doing. We are paying for health care to the point of
bankruptcy.

The United States has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, yet
our health-care outcomes and the quality of our system ranks at the absolute
bottom of all industrial nations (37th in the world, according to the World
Health Organization). We do not have more doctors or nurses per capita than
single-payer nations, and patients are not provided more visits to the
doctor. Even wealthy insured Americans have much worse health outcomes on
average than their counterparts in single-payer nations.

The counter-proposal offered by opponents of universal health care
highlights the real reason that meaningful health reform has been so
difficult: all they ever talk about is ‘who pays.’ Health-insurance costs
grow by double-digit margins each year, and proposals always center on
making consumers pay more, paying doctors or hospitals less, or making
taxpayers foot more of the bill. None of these are a real solution because
none of them deals in any way with the real problem: runaway premiums for
less care.

Universal health care is the best answer and is possible. SB 840 works by
pooling our health-care resources so everyonecstate and federal government,
income earners and employersccontributes something and we all get coverage.
This allows us to consolidate the administrative costs of thousands of
different insurance companies and plans into one comprehensive insurance
plan, savings businesses and families, as well as the state, billions of
dollars in the first year alone.

We are spending over $184 billion dollars on health care this year in
California. That’s more than twice as much as nearly every other
industrialized nationcper person. Yet, all other industrialized nations have
achieved universal health insurance, and so can we.

The time has come to stop nibbling around the edges. SB 840 will cover
everyone with full benefits, contain costs and improve health quality at the
same time. This bill is about covering the uninsured, protecting working
middle class families and improving the health-care system for everyone.


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