The main objections to the historic -- and, yes, courageous -- health care reform negotiated by myself, Democratic Senate President pro Tem Don Perata and Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, come from genuine proponents of a single-payer plan or those using single-payer as an organizing tool. Disappointment over the improbability of single-payer ever being enacted anytime in the foreseeable future should not be allowed to diminish the benefits millions of Californians will receive from the California plan.
This is a far reaching bill more progressive than anything any other state is advancing.
The Health Care Security and Cost Reduction Act and a companion statewide initiative anticipated for the November 2008 ballot will significantly reduce the numbers of the uninsured in California through public program expansions and increased employer participation in the health care of workers. This bill will organize and improve the health insurance market for individuals, advance innovative strategies to reduce health care costs and improve quality. The bill will also protect California's budget through dedicated revenues that make the proposal self-financing.
Once this proposal is implemented, 71% of California's 5.1 million uninsured -- most of whom are low-income working individuals and their families -- will no longer be uninsured for health care. That includes 800,000 children.
The plan makes serious changes in the way insurance companies do business. We require every health plan and insurer in the state to accept anyone subject to the individual regardless of their health status or claims history. Carriers will be obligated to spend at least 85 cents of every premium dollar collected on health care and health benefits. And it defies logic to suggest that insurance companies would see this floor as an excuse to raise premiums when the vast majority of any increase would go straight back into care.
Here's how the Los Angeles Times sums up the issue: "No one is going to come up with the perfect solution to the state's healthcare woes. Opponents on the right cry out against any government boost for coverage or care. Opponents on the left dream of a single-payer, Medicare-like system for all. But the status quo is not tolerable. Given that this plan would not dismantle healthcare in California, why not give it a chance? It could help millions of people. As the "Year of Healthcare" draws to a close, it's time to take the blueprint for experimentation that we have and start figuring out, with the resources we have, how we might reasonably make it work."
People shouldn't let their policy dreams -- or political agendas -- get in the way of California's real chance at health care reform.