Most university students are young and healthy, so for them the issue of healthcare and how our society finances it is not of great concern. Notable exceptions are those who themselves or their parents have the misfortune to have a chronic or debilitating illness and thus have intimate knowledge of our health non-system’s flaws.
The health issue should be of concern to everyone, however, because the young get old, the healthy get sick and everyone needs a hospital bed and a good physician several times during his or her lifetime. If we don’t overhaul our non-system now, it is likely that our present health infrastructure of facilities and caregivers will collapse, impacting us all.
So, what is the solution? Ultimately the United States will adopt a universal health insurance system. First, there will have to be pilot programs in several states to test various solutions to determine the costs and impact on quality and access to care. The California State Legislature has considered and passed such a solution: the California Health Insurance Reliability Act, SB 840 (Kuehl). Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it in September, but a similar bill will be introduced in early 2007.
The act creates one state-run funding pool to pay for all healthcare costs, one complete insurance benefit package and one transparent and publicly accountable administrative structure. The funding pool would consolidate all public program monies, including Medicare, that are currently appropriated for California. Those public monies already fund almost half of all health care. A payroll tax of approximately 8 percent and a personal income tax of approximately 3 percent would replace the current private insurance premiums and individual out-of-pocket costs now spent.
The proposed system is known as single-payer, because instead of multiple public and private insurances paying for care, there would be only one. Medicare is an example of a single-payer system for those over 65 or disabled.
If what individuals and businesses currently pay for health insurance and for out-of-pocket costs could be called health taxes, one could say that this new system results in an $8 billion tax cut.
Single-payer health insurance reduces health care costs primarily by eliminating the excessive profit and administrative overhead we now pay to private insurers and pharmaceutical companies. Additional savings will come from better planning, emphasis on disease prevention and education and development of best practices.
Businesses will benefit from eliminating the need to negotiate health benefits and by reducing the cost of employer health care contributions. Providers will benefit by reduced intrusion into treatment decisions they and their patients make, and by guaranteed, prompt and adequate reimbursement for services provided. And everyone will benefit from controlling health-cost inflation, which has nearly doubled health care insurance costs over the last six years.
You are invited to learn more and join in the debate. California’s OneCareNow, the campaign to educate Californians and support public policy on the benefits of universal single-payer health insurance, is sponsoring events in 365 California cities, including Isla Vista, over the next year. Those interested are encouraged to attend the OneCareNow event on Sunday, Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Friendship Manor.
Peter Conn is the Santa Barbara chapter chair of Health Care For All.