The Healthy California Act, Senate Bill 562, which passed our Senate in June, would have “created a program to provide comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage and a health care cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state.” Shamefully, our state Assembly refused to even read the bill. They failed the people of California, leaving us with a dysfunctional health care system.
Over the past two decades, multiple studies have shown that California wastes billions of dollars on the administrative inefficiencies caused by our multi-payer system. Most recently, the PERI report estimated that California could save $38 billion annually with a single-payer system.
Our per capita health care costs are the highest in the world because there are a multitude of private companies and governmental insurance programs. Other major countries devote less than 9 percent of their economy to health care, while in the U.S. and California we pay between 15 and 16 percent. At these exorbitant costs, there are still 3 million Californians uninsured and another 12 million underinsured.
Other developed countries have adopted various forms of single-payer insurance because the efficiencies allow them to offer robust care as a basic human right. Only a not-for-profit single-payer system can control costs and deliver comprehensive care to all residents of California. We have a model, it is called Medicare, and it is one of the most efficient and popular governmental programs ever. That’s why single-payer is often called Expanded Medicare for All. California’s health care expenses are estimated to be $370 billion annually. Of that, 70 percent is already paid with public dollars. That alone is more than other countries spend in total.
Some of the benefits of SB 562 to the residents, businesses and doctors of our state stand out:
• People will be able to seek care quickly and, consequently, their conditions will not worsen needlessly and become more expensive to treat. Patients will no longer be forced to seek care in restrictive networks because all doctors will be free to belong to the Healthy California system. Medical conditions will no longer be the leading cause of bankruptcy in California. Those of us on Medicare will also enjoy these wider benefits.
Working people will no longer be tied to jobs in order to maintain insurance. Entrepreneurial spirits will be freed to form their own companies without the concerns of finding health care. Large and small businesses will not be in competition over health care benefits. Employers will be freed to hire older workers without risk to their insurance policies. Cities and counties will no longer need to use their local tax dollars to cover retired employees’ medical pensions. In our global economy, California businesses will have a level playing field compared to their foreign competitors.
• The Healthy California Act was written to overhaul how we pay for medical care, not to change how that care is delivered. Public and private hospitals, physician groups or individuals, and other providers will continue to ply their art and science as they have before. They will have certainty when it comes to being paid for their services. They won’t be second-guessed on their prescribed courses of treatment. SB 562 creates an independent board advised by an independent committee of medical providers and user peer groups that will set standards of conduct. The bill will provide for all medically necessary procedures, drugs and tests that our doctors deem fit.
The leaders of the Republican Party that now control all branches of our federal government have stated their intention to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as they have done with the Affordable Care Act. Some people fear that California will not be granted the federal waivers that are part of current law. We can be certain that those waivers will never be granted unless we apply for them. This administration would not prevail in a lawsuit to prevent California from instituting this highly efficient system.
After 10 weeks of campaigning, I can testify that thousands of constituents agree, California can and should act now to repair our broken system. I have pledged to them and to all Marin and Sonoma voters that once I am in Sacramento I will fight for an overhaul of our failing system. I will not hide from this crucial task.
Dan Monte of San Anselmo is a Democrat seeking election in the 10th Assembly District.