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Opinion: California has a cure for bad health coverage

By RoseAnn DeMoro writing for East Bay Times, 6/20/17

Supporters of single-payer health care march to the Capitol Wednesday, April 26, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. The bill, SB562 by Democratic state Sens. Ricardo Lara, of Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, of San Diego, that would guarantee health coverage with no out-of-pocket cost for all California residents, including people living in the country illegally is to be heard in the Senate Health Committee, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

As the U.S. Senate rushes to enact secret legislation that could rip away health coverage for millions, with a bill whose only public version even President Donald Trump branded as “mean,” in California we have an antidote that would protect us all.

While the House version of the American Health Care Act would end health coverage for 14 million next year alone, the Healthy California Act, SB 562, would guarantee coverage for every Californian.

While even the Senate version of the AHCA would, according to reports, allow insurers to screen out millions more, the Healthy California Act would assure all Californians the medical, dental, vision, mental health and long term care that is essential to one’s health.

While the AHCA would punish the sickest among us with thousands of dollars more in charges and increase premiums for older Americans not yet Medicare age, the Healthy California Act would end the burden of skyrocketing costs that force so many to skip needed care.

While the AHCA does nothing to protect those subject to restrictive insurance networks, limited access to specialists and unexpected hidden charges from doctors or labs a patient often doesn’t even see, the Healthy California Act provides real patient choice. One medical card, good anywhere, for any the doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic.

We can transform a broken health care system, built on ability to pay, not patient need and create a model that will make us all proud.

A dream? No, it’s legislation. SB 562, co-authored by Sen. Toni Atkins and Sen. Ricardo Lara, has already passed the California Senate and will soon be acted on by the Assembly. It has broad and growing support from nurses, doctors, dozens of healthcare and community organizations.

And, contrary to the fear-mongering and deceptions peddled by the profiteering insurance giants, virtually every California household and business will actually spend less on health care costs.

Insurers are already whipping up a campaign of whoppers, that SB 562 will cost $400 billion. Not true. Most of that is what we already spend on health care in California, 71 percent of it through taxpayer funded Medicare, Medicaid and subsidies to insurers.

As a major University of Massachusetts research study documents, more than $70 billion of current spending would be saved. How? By reducing the colossal administrative waste by insurance corporations on billing, profits, executive pay packages, inflated drug and hospital charges, coupled with a far more efficient system of coordinated primary and preventive care.

Additional funding — to provide real health security for the nearly 15 million Californians who are uninsured or drowning with unpayable medical bills – could come by two simple revenue streams.

As outlined by the UMass researchers, a modest 2.3 percent gross receipts tax for SB 562 that exempts the first $2 million in revenue would slash what businesses with less than 10 employees pay now for health benefits by 22 percent, and even large companies with up to 500 workers would spend 6 percent less on health care.

A 2.3 percent sales tax that exempts spending on housing, utilities, groceries and multiple personal savings would cut what most families now spend on health care costs by up to 9 percent, effectively a 9 percent raise.

Ultimately California faces a moral choice. Should we accept the status quo and abandon tens of millions of our neighbors to suffer? Or can we take the bold step and show we can act like a caring people who solve our deepest problems and demonstrate what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. imagined of a “beloved community” based on justice, equality and love of all humans.

Rose Ann DeMoro is executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United.

Original Post: http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/06/19/opinion-california-has-a-cure-for-bad-health-coverage

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