By RoseAnn DeMoro writing for San Francisco Chronicle.
In contrast to the health care horror show unfolding in Washington, California can establish real health care security for our families, neighbors and communities with the Healthy California Act, SB562.
SB562 would guarantee coverage for every Californian. It would end the nightmare for those who pay premiums for “insurance” they can’t use because of the huge deductibles.
It would end restrictive insurance networks that limit access to specialists, or slam patients with unexpected medical bills from a doctor’s group even when going to an “approved” network provider.
SB562 is the only way to achieve real patient choice. One medical card, good at any hospital, doctor’s office, lab or clinic.
Insurance companies are working feverishly to deceive the public about SB562 with claims such as this proposal will suddenly cost taxpayers $400 billion. But most of that is what is already spent on health care in California, an amount engorged by profiteering, inflated charges, mountains of billing paperwork, excessive executive pay packages, and other waste.
Here’s what the opponents of SB562 have hidden: A study from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute that illustrates how nearly every California household and business would actually spend less on health care costs than they do now.
Companies that now provide health benefits for employees will spend less, in large part because they will no longer have to subsidize the $26.7 billion in profits that California insurers made in the past six years.
Under the study’s financing proposal, a modest 2.3 percent gross receipts tax for SB562 that exempts the first $2 million in revenue would slash what businesses with fewer than 10 employees pay now for health benefits by 22 percent. 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 as a share of their income by up to 9 percent — effectively a 9 percent raise.
In exchange, we could provide coverage for 2.7 million Californians still uninsured and eliminate the ever-rising costs of premiums, deductibles and other health charges for 12 million people who now pay premiums but face financial distress or bankruptcy if they go to the doctor or endanger their health by not getting the care they need — even if “insured.”
How do those charges affect real Californians? Meet Sharon, an “insured” North Bay resident with a pre-existing condition who recently told us that “my deductible was supposed to be $5,000, but after expensive surgery I had to pay more than $7,000 out of pocket because only certain expenses apply to the deductible in spite of the fact I paid more than $6,000 in premiums through the year.”
“Enough of this nickel-and-diming me and my family so we can worry about whether we can keep our insurance each month or pay for enough groceries. Give us single-payer health care for all, regardless of income,” she wrote.
Californians face a moral choice. To be a caring society, as envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr., a “beloved community” in which health care is genuinely a human right, guaranteed for all, we must pass SB562.
RoseAnn DeMoro is executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, lead sponsor of SB562.