On June 1, SB 562 the Healthy California Act, a single payer comprehensive guaranteed health care for all bill, was passed by the California senate and moved to the assembly. This bill, if it is passed by the california legislature and signed by governor jerry brown, would end the draconian profit-driven stranglehold the insurance companies have on health care in California. It would be groundbreaking and provide a model for the rest of the country in the time of republican plans to decrease health coverage for the poor and the old in order to reduce the taxes of the wealthy. If it passed, every person in California would have complete health care coverage including mental health care, and dental and vision care. There would be no more premiums or co-pays. Everybody would be in. Nobody would be out.
Having passed the california senate, the bill is now in the assembly rules committee which will decide which committees will hear the bill. Likely it will be heard in the health committee, after which the funding mechanism will be added to the bill and then forwarded to the appropriations committee sometime between August 21 and September 1. It needs a two- thirds vote in the assembly to pass and must go back to the senate with the financial piece and be voted on again and passed by a two-thirds vote. If it passes, it will be on jerry brown’s desk for approval between September 15 and October 15.
Recently there has been a furor of bad press about this single payer bill. jerry brown dismissed the idea huffily in a Sacramento Bee article “Where do you get the extra money? This is the whole question. I don’t even get … how do you do that?” Mainstream media fall right in line publishing stories that make health care for all a laughable joke of an idea, impossible to fund, never mind that it works just fine in Canada and various countries around the world (even Tory ruled Britain).
This media smear campaign is blatantly ridiculous. It pretends that somehow the passing of a single payer bill would require a whole new batch of money, as though magically the state doesn’t pay anything for health care already. Even my good friends who should know better were saying to me, “It’s just too expensive. It’s a great idea but it is just not realistic. It can’t be done.” The truth is that the big insurance companies who stand to lose their lucrative profiteering off of the misery of disease have already started the push to undermine the bill.
The answers to these funding questions were announced just before the senate vote in June, by the release of an economic analysis done by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, authored by Professor of Economics Robert Pollin.
The total cost of health care in California currently is $370 billion dollars, about 14 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. 7.5 percent of the population, 2.7 million people, have no health care, and 36 percent, 12 million people, are under-insured with limited access to care due to high premiums and co-pays relative to their income level. Figuring the cost of health care for the uninsured and the under-insured brings the total state cost to 400 billion dollars.
The analysis estimates that a single payer system would save 18 percent by reducing the current excessive administrative costs, decreasing drug costs by negotiating better deals with pharmaceutical companies (something that both the Canadian system and the Veterans Administration do), and negotiating better prices for doctors and hospitals and medicare reimbursement rates. This would bring the total cost for health care down to $330 billion. The state and federal government already pay 70 percent of the cost. It has already been settled in the courts that the federal government would have to keep paying their part even if a state chooses to create a different health care delivery system.
The economic analysis of SB 562 proposes two new taxes: 1. a gross receipts tax on all California businesses of 2.3 percent, but with the first $2 million in business receipts exempted from the tax. This means that small business would be protected and the tax would be directed at big businesses. 2. a 2.3 percent sales tax increase. This would exempt spending on housing, utilities and food. It would also provide a 2 percent income tax credit for low-income families who are now on MediCal (the California version of Medicaid). We at LAGAI feel that sales taxes are regressive, putting more of the burden on lower-income people, but the 2 percent low-income tax credit is an attempt to mitigate the effect.
So the media hype that single payer would cost the state more than its total budget is spurious and calculated. california already spends this money but the people get poor or no health care for the price and the insurance companies laugh all the way to the bank. Moreover, employees who get coverage through their jobs are already paying a great deal for health care, in the form of premiums as well as ever-increasing co-pays. Since premium contributions by both employers and employees are not taxed, uncoupling health coverage from jobs will increase revenue from payroll taxes, but employees will recoup their share in the form of guaranteed health benefits from the state, rather than being subject to caps and exclusions based on their employers’ negotiations with health plans. And people will be freer to look for better jobs, since quitting won’t affect our health care. This transition is long overdue and the political will must be found.
Another problem for the single payer campaign is that SEIU (Service Employee International Union) has not come out in support of the bill, wanting improved language for eligibility worker’s retraining and public hospital funding. The reality is that SEIU has had a long standing labor partnership with kaiser, one of the key insurance companies making big profits in california and opposing the bill. SEIU has also historically been at odds with CNA (California Nurses Association) the key union spearheading the campaign.
To make matters worse, various non-profits in california are spending a lot of time and effort resisting the trump fascist government (which of course needs to be vigorously opposed), by endlessly organizing telephone campaigns about the demise of Obamacare. In california this is a waste of time and a bad strategy and ever indicative of the weak democratic party liberalism. All that energy needs to be put into winning single payer. If california succeeded in getting real health care for all, it would provide an example for other states, and the beginning of a health care revolution!
HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT
WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR LIBERAL CHAINS