In February, California senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins introduced the Healthy California Act, SB 562, guaranteeing quality, comprehensive health care, including dental, for Californians. A fiscal analysis by a team of economists led by Dr. Robert Pollin of UMass Amherst yielded the following data:
Currently 33.4 million people have health insurance in California; 12 million of us have what is considered inadequate coverage because of high deductibles, copays, and incomplete benefits. There are 2.7 million more with no insurance, many on a permanent “wait list” for care.
Spending by individuals, businesses, and governments — both federal and state — on health care in California now totals about $368 billion. To provide care to all Californians without reforming the present system would cost $404 billion. With reform through a single-payer system that includes expanded benefits, no copays, no deductibles, and no Medicare supplemental plans, Pollin estimates the total cost would come to $331 billion.
Pollin says that state and federal tax monies (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) already pay $225 billion. That leaves a gap of $106 billion, which gap can be filled with two modest taxes: A 2.3 percent addition to sales tax, with income tax credits to those on Medi-Cal to soften the impact, would replace and be less than what 80 percent of us now pay in premiums, copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket for uncovered treatments. The second is for businesses: After a $2 million exemption, businesses would pay a 2.3 percent gross receipts tax, replacing current insurance premium payments for employees. This is less than what businesses now pay and exempts many altogether.
How can fiscal conservatives be against providing needed health care, including dental, to almost 3 million people who have no insurance, expanding coverage for everyone, including 12 million people who have inadequate insurance, while costing 8 percent less than is presently spent on healthcare?
And if one values freedom, the proposed system would free up people unhappy with their current job, enabling them to leave without risking loss of health coverage.
The Healthy California Act saves money by: negotiating prices for pharmaceuticals and equipment; reducing administrative costs and burdens to doctors, hospitals, and businesses; reducing unnecessary services and inefficiently delivered services; eliminating missed prevention opportunities; and reducing the occurrence of fraud.
Some are calling the legislation an “unaccountable government monopoly.” But what health insurance company do you know of that has a governing board with open meetings and an advisory board consisting of health-care stakeholders, including patients, as is proposed in the Healthy California Act?
Lastly, people trust Medicare, despite its being government administered. Doctors and hospitals “run” health care. Medicare collects the “premiums” and pays the bills, more efficiently and with far less hassle than private insurers do. The Healthy California Act is Medicare for all Californians.
The economic analysis done by Dr. Robert Pollin et al. at University of Massachusetts - Amherst of the proposed Healthy California Act (Medicare for all in California) is now available at healthycaliforniaact.org.