Health care, two words that dominate the center stage from Sacramento to Washington. But in reality nobody is doing anything about it. President George W. Bush did not even sign the bill that would have covered almost 4 million uninsured children.
Last week, both the House and Senate passed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 or CHIPRA with significant bipartisan support. Similarly, lawmakers across the country are investing in efforts to make health coverage available to more children in their states by building on the foundation of SCHIP and Medicaid. With children’s coverage a clear national priority, the final approval of the SCHIP reauthorization bill offered the opportunity for the federal government to renew and strengthen its commitment to reaching the finish line for the health of America’s children.
The president complained that the bill that passed by Congress would steer the S-CHIP program away from its core purpose by expanding the program to cover some middle-class families, including some with annual incomes as high as $83,000, while failing to cover some deserving children.
Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his health care plan in bill form and this is a hopeful sign for more than 6.5 million uninsured Californians. However, there are still big disagreements over affordability and the cost of such a plan. In reality, the proposal is a joke, because he is betting that our health care costs will be covered by the California lottery.
Is he serious? Last week the New York Times reported that only 1.6% of the $3.5 million made by the California Lottery actually end up going to education systems.
While it is very important for California to pass a health care plan this year to provide for its 6.5 million uninsured, we also need to be realistic.
I think it is about time for California to designate additional funding to subsidize coverage for middle-income Californians. Everyone in government always talks about middle-income people, but never really takes any action to help them. Now we have a great opportunity as a state to become a national leader again, and pass a comprehensive health care plan that would cover all Californians.
At the same time we need to be realistic and serious about funding this effort. Funding health care with lottery money may seems like a great idea but lets get serious, we know that is not promising at all. The lottery has not adequately funded education and it is not going to do any better for the proposed health care system. If we really want a comprehensive health care system, we will need to pay for it.
Governor Schwarzenegger needs to be applauded for his efforts on this issue, as he has gone against his fellow Republicans, who would not support it. This is forcing him to place it on the ballot. While this proposal is a great first attempt, I think we can do much better than this.
The governor’s current proposal is going to cost us about $14 billion after having started at $12 billion in January. While this may sound like a lot of money, for a state like California it is not. I think the best way to pay for this is through an increase in sales tax.
I am a strong believer in our political system and the power of political pressure. It is time for us to get our act together and shape the conversation about health care. While we can complain to each other about this problem all day long, that is not going to help. We need to have our voice heard and a simple email, not to mention a phone call or a letter, will go a long way in convincing your state representative of your stance on the health care issue.
Now if you are like many of us and don’t know who to contact, just go to www.legislature.ca.gov, type in your zip code and your excuse is gone.
When nothing is done about the health care system that involves you, you can’t complain if you don’t take five minutes to write an email. Hint: if you have a laptop, you can even write your email while you are in class.
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