Single-Payer Health Care Legislation
April 29, College of Marin
Single-payer, universal health care insurance coverage is still knocking on California's door.
On Friday, April 29th, health care experts, including Marin Supervisor Susan Adams, Marin Community Foundation CEO Dr. Tom Peters, and Judy Spelman, a chief architect of the pending legislation, will participate in a public forum for the bill that is currently before the state legislature. The free event will feature a presentation followed by a discussion panel that will take questions from the audience. The forum is sponsored by the Marin chapter of NOW and College of Marin Students for Social Responsibility. The presentation will begin at 7 p.m. at Olney Hall on the College of Marin Campus.
In the previous 2-year state legislature session, California State Senator Sheila Kuehl let her "Health Care for All Californians Act" -Senate Bill 921 (SB921) -lapse into dormancy for a time. Far from being a resignation of defeat, this pause by one of California's most expert legislators was intended to allow time for further study that would improve the bill's chances of success in the legislature, and its effectiveness as a statewide program.
Re-released in February 2005, the bill is now called the "California Healthcare Insurance Reliability Act (CHIRA)," and has been designated as Senate Bill 840 (SB840).
During the period between the two incarnations, SB840 was studied by the Lewin Group, a highly-regarded independent health care system cost and policy analysis firm. The report, entitled "The Health Care For All Californians Act: Cost and Economic Impacts Analysis," was released in January 2005 (available on the Lewin Group website).
The Lewin Group report provides independent corroboration for claims that SB840 would save California billions of dollars per year, while offering substantially improved coverage for the vast majority of California residents. The savings of about $40 billion in administrative costs would be divided between improvements in coverage and savings to residents, businesses, and government. According to Kuehl's office, after coverage improvements, the bill would save $8 billion in the first year alone, and an save estimated $43.8 billion from 2006 to 2015.
Employers who currently offer health benefits would see, on average, a reduction of 16% in health insurance costs relative to the current system. In 2006, California families would save an average of $340 per family. State and local governments would save approximately $900 million in the first year, in spending on health benefits for workers and retirees. However, employers who do not currently offer health benefits would be required to join the new program.
Proponents of CHIRA say it is important to note that the bill does not create a form of socialized medicine, in which doctors and nurses work for the state. Under CHIRA, independent health care practitioners remain independent, reimbursed for services much as they are now.
CHIRA would also eliminate many of the constrains experienced by physicians and health care recipients under common HMO practices. California residents would be freer to choose their own physicians; and physicians would have greater freedom to recommend procedures.
In addition, while CHIRA increases coverage for most California residents, Californians wanting additional coverage may still purchase health care insurance from private insurance providers. The new state insurance system sets up highly efficient competition around which private firms would have to compete or offer complementary services, but private firms are still permitted.
For additional questions or to get involved, attend the College of Marin public forum on SB840: 7 p.m., Friday, April 29th, at Olney Hall on the College of Marin campus, at the Corner of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. and College Avenue. For more information about this event, write to [email protected]