The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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California health care bill pending before Senate

Americans are spending an increasing amount of their salaries on health care and are receiving less for their money, forcing millions of people to live without insurance and file for bankruptcy, government figures show.

Senate Bill 840, introduced by California Sen. Sheila Kuehl, would essentially establish a single-payer health care system for all the state’s residents. The bill would allow patients to pay the government one fee for their health care rather than dealing with insurance companies and hospitals.

“Health care is a vital service we need to provide to have a productive society,” said Luis Rebino, 52, director of the health administration program in the health science department and associate professor at CSUN. “It’s a right, not a privilege. Yet in the United States, we have a very poor health care system. People don’t have access to the resources due to affordability.”

An estimated 6.5 million Californians didn’t have health care coverage at some time in 2004, including one in every five non-elderly Californians, the bill indicates.

Health care expenses continue to increase much faster than the growth of the economy, and efforts to control spending and health care costs have proven to be unsuccessful.

“Growth in spending is growing four times faster than wages,” said Sara Rogers, who has been a consultant for Kuehl for about six years. “Eventually it won’t be enough.”

“The goal is to provide universal health care,” Rogers said. “This bill covers students when they graduate.”

The federal agency Centers for Medicare ‘ Medicaid Services administers Medicare, the nation’s largest health insurance program, which covers nearly 40 million Americans. Medicare is a health insurance program for people 65 years of age and older.

Currently, the argument is that the state uses the system now with seniors, so why not extend that to all Californians? Much like Medicare negotiates the cost of care, SB 840 would allow the state government to do the same.

“It’s much simpler and less paperwork,” said Martin Saiz, associate professor of political science. “People are going to lobby and protest because it’s too much government control but that’s just our nature, our culture.”

According to some reports, California could divert billions of dollars toward providing direct health care and improve the quality of and access to that care by simplifying administration, achieving bulk purchase discounts on pharmaceuticals, reducing the use of emergency facilities for primary care and carefully managing health care capital investment.

“It’s the only system that improves quality, spends half as much and no one is left uninsured,” said Rogers. “It will pass eventually. The field poll shows an increase in single-payer votes verses others. We have a shot, we’ll get there.”

Alternative types of insurance are employer mandated, low cost insurance, or government-aided.

“It’s a good idea, yet the method presented is too bureaucratic,” Rebino said. “I think this is a radical change. Change is good, but this is too big of a change.”

Many students at CSUN are in their 20s, which is the age most people are uninsured.

“This is the highest uninsured population who is not old and not poor, but healthy people who can’t afford health insurance,” said Rebino. “And accidents happen, so hopefully they have health care.”

Rebino, now in his tenth year teaching full-time, is a former hospital executive and administrator with expertise in operations. He also sits on the board of St. Francis Medical Center in Lynnwood.

There is low cost insurance available for students. CSUN also provides health care for resident and international students.

“It’s a wonderful program at CSUN,” said Nouar Albahli, 21, a sophomore international student and finance major who said she has gone to the health care center a few times.

Here on a scholarship from Saudi Arabia, Albahli said the Saudi government provides her with a health insurance card that allows her to get health care anywhere for free. Albahli said the hospital deals with the Saudi government and leaves her free of hassles.

“In Saudi Arabia, the (private) insurance is starting up there too, cheaper than the state,” said Albahli.

There are 60,000 visits to the CSUN’s health center a year, and the numbers are growing due to better information, new services and increased hours, said Sharon Aronoff, health educator at the Klotz Student Health Center.

“I like that everyone is talking about health care,” said Rebino. “As you get older and more sick, you need the health care system more. You need to start now and get upset so that you have a secure future.”

He said that health care is important to the governor, so “something will come of the issue.”

“At this point, (the bill) won’t pass because its too costly and too administrative bureaucracy infiltrated,” said Rebino. “But each year it gets more votes.”

According to Rebino, China and Kenya are examples of poor countries that are trying to get health care to everyone.

“These countries have more government responsibility than the U.S.,” said Rebino.

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