Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Universal health insurance in California

My SO just read about California SB 840, a bill that would create a universal health insurance system in California. The bill just passed the California Senate (25 to 15), and is currently in the Assembly; the bill was introduced by Senator Sheila Kuehl.

This is one of the most exciting things I've read about in the past few months, yet before my SO found this on Democratic Underground, I hadn't heard a thing about it. I only found one very short mention in the LA Times (here), and three opinion pieces in the SF Chronicle. Here's a press release discussing the bill's passage from Senator Kuehl's website:



On May 31,2005, State Senate Bill 840, the California Health Insurance Reliability Act (CHIRA), authored by State Senator Sheila Kuehl, passed in the State Senate by a vote of 24 to 14 and has been sent to the State Assembly for consideration. SB 840 would insure every Californian with comprehensive health benefits while preserving each consumer's right to choose his or her own doctor. SB 840 would create a streamlined reimbursement process that would take the place of current public and private insurance plans, thus saving billions in administrative costs. Consumers would pay a yearly means-based premium for all coverage, which would include medical, dental, vision, prescription drug, hospitalization and emergency coverage, along with other services.

The plan is expected to put no new burden on California's general fund. According to the projections of the Lewin Group, an independent healthcare cost/benefit analysis firm, a model on which SB 840 is based could wind up reducing overall healthcare costs in California while insuring every resident at a high level of coverage.

"It's often the case that the most efficient solution to a problem is also the most compassionate solution," says Senator Kuehl. "And we must find a solution to our ballooning healthcare crisis. One in 5 Californians is uninsured. Those of us who have coverage are seeing everything rise: premiums, deductibles, co-pays and out of pocket expenses, while our coverage continues to decline. Half of the personal bankruptcies in this country are the result of medical expenses, and the majority of the people bankrupted for that reason had insurance at the time they became sick or injured.

"This issue affects all of us," Kuehl continued. "One bad traffic accident can wipe out a lifetime of careful financial decisions. Even the minority of people with good coverage can find themselves suffering in an emergency, because emergency rooms are choked with people who aren't actually in emergencies,but have nowhere else to go - or who wouldn't have needed emergency care if they'd only had the preventive care they needed.

"I am very grateful that so many of my colleagues in the State Senate saw the pressing need for this bill. This is what we should be doing - trying to solve the real problems of real people."

State Senate pro Tem, Donald Perata said, "The Senate's passage of SB 840, the California Health Insurance Reliability Act is a big step forward for healthcare reform in California. I wish to thank Senator Kuehl for introducing and working hard for this bill, which will provide all Californians with affordable, comprehensive health insurance, contain healthcare costs and preserve our freedom to choose our own doctors. The passage of this bill exemplifies the work that we, in the legislature, are doing to solve the real problems that people of California have entrusted us with a mandate to address."

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