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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Universal health care clears hurdle in California

A bill that would provide all California residents with health care at no additional cost to the state has been approved by the State Senate and has moved to the Assembly, where it will face a final vote before being sent to the governor.

The California Health Insurance Reliability Act, authored by State Senator Sheila Kuehl, D –Los Angeles, “would insure every Californian with comprehensive health benefits while preserving each consumer’s right to choose his or her own doctor,” according to a statement from Kuehl’s office.

The State Senate approved the bill, SB 840, with a 24-14 vote in May. The bill was referred to the Assembly Health Committee July 5.

If passed, the bill would create a system that has consumers paying an annual premium for all coverage, which would include dental, prescription drugs, hospital and emergency care, and other medical services. A system of standardized reimbursements would take the place of the current system, which is a hodgepodge of private and public health care plans.

Kevin Hanley, a policy consultant for the California Assembly Republican Caucus, said he feels that by changing the system, the state can create a more structured health care program for its residents.

“The system we have now is not the best system,” Hanley said. “It needs a lot of reform. People who don’t make enough for medical (coverage), but don’t qualify for Medicare, are really stuck in a rut. People who have been laid off or are forced to retire early cannot afford health care, and many go without.”

This bill will stop this from occurring, Hanley said. He also argued that the system as it is now is not sufficient in terms of how taxpayer money and hospital costs.

“When individuals who do not have health care are sent to the emergency room, it’s the taxpayers who end up forking over the (money),” Hanley said. “This situation also forces many hospitals to close down, because by the time the government does pay, it’s much too late.”

SB 840 would eliminate all of these problems and create a better health care environment for all Californians, he said.

In 1994, a similar bill was put on a ballot and voted on by Californians, who rejected it by an overwhelming majority. Many national medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, oppose the single-payer systems –what the bill would produce, as opposed to a multi-payer system –partly because of fear that it will create longer waits for patient care if the government becomes strapped for money, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Jaime Kruse, senior business major, said she feels that the plan, if passed, will dramatically improve California’s health care system and will give the less fortunate a chance to get the same care as the wealthy.

“I work at a minimum wage job which does not offer benefits, (and) I cannot afford personal insurance due to my lack of income,” Kruse said. “It’s a no-win situation for me. I can only hope that I don’t end up sick, because if I do, I will not be able to afford health care and it will put me in a really bad situation.”

Veronica Martinez, junior communications major, said she also feels the burden of not having the protection of good health care.

Martinez said it seems as though many other industrialized countries like the United States offer health care for their citizens. She said she did not know why Americans have not yet caught on and found a solution to exclusively privatized health care.

“It’s not fair that (just) because you are not well-off, then you have to go without health care,” Martinez said. “Good health should be every citizen’s right. I really hope that this bill is passed … because then hopefully other states will follow.”

The bill is on a two-year time frame and is not due for serious consideration until January 2006 at the earliest.

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