Universal health care clears hurdle in California

summer Sundial

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 -‘#8209;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


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 ?’#8209;what the bill would

produce, as opposed to a multi-payer system ?’#8209;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


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


‘?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.