Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Schwazenegger's Plan is off; Single-payer, Universal Care is the Answer to Our Healthcare Crisis

Today California's governor announced that he wants to help all Californians have healthcare coverage. It is good news to hear that Governor Schwarzenegger wants to fix our broken healthcare system. The only problem is that those he has asked to participate in the solution ARE the problem.

Last year Schwarzenegger held a conference to determine just what his healthcare reforms should entail. The "stakeholders" present at the conference who got to give the Governor input were those in healthcare who had contributed greatly to his fundraisers: the health insurers and the pharmaceutical companies.

Health insurers take up to 30% (some even as much as 50%) of our healthcare dollars and spend them on various adminstrative costs like lavish executive compensation packages and advertising. (Medicare's administration costs are around 3%.) And of course there are those armies of adjusters who review claims and petitions for care looking for any and every reason possible to deny coverage.

Highly profitable pharmaceutical companies charge Californians outrageous amounts for medicines that Canadians and Kaiser patients pay pennies for.

No where in the Governor's plan are these excesses adequately restrained. No where in his plan is a universal quality of care demanded. Insurers are allowed to sell insurance that very well could cover next to nothing except the next bonus cheque for the insurance company's CEO. Californians would be required to pay for such bogus coverage.

There are Californians who are just as healthy as the Governor (previous hip replacement, heart valve replacement, multiple trips to the Emergency Department, and broken bones requiring hardware to keep them together) who cannot buy health insurance at any price; insurers red line them out. I am not convinced that insurance companies would not find ways to continue redlining. And there are Californians out there who will not be able to afford the State mandated insurance and keep a roof over their heads and food in their families' mouths all at the same time. Those people will choose, just as there are still uninsured motorists, to go without the insurance.

When my family was young, neither my husband nor I had jobs that provided health insurance. Since the cost of independently insuring our family was way out of our reach, we went without. We gambled and got away with only a few visits to the Emergency Department and a few extra visits to our pediatrician. But we knew we were one step, one illness, one accident away from disaster.

My husband had to have eye surgery which was covered by Medi-Cal and the largess of the hospital at which I was employed. The surgery greatly improved his sight and made it possible for him to be gainfully employed; thus being a good for our little family, as well as a Good for Society in general.

Now we all have some sort of coverage but we have seen up close and personal that if your insurer denies you the care you need, even though you are paying the pricey premiums, you still have no health care.

I want universal coverage, effective cost controls, and high quality care that I, as a registered nurse, would be proud to deliver.

That kind of universal coverage, California Healthcare for All (California One Care), was approved by the Legislature last year (SB 840 by Senator Shiela Kuehl) but vetoed by the Governor. Senator Kuehl's single-payer, single (high) standard of care, universal healthcare bill will be introduced again and must pass this year.

That kind of care is also possible for all of America in the Medicare for All bill sponsored by Congressman John Conyers of Michigan. Being the only nation among our economic peers in the world that does not have universal health care, it is way past time we got serious about it and did it. For ourselves. For our children. For our economy. For our future.


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