Universal Healthcare: Coming to a California Near You?

If SB 810 is passed, universal
healthcare may soon be a reality for California citizens. SB 810 covers
the issue of “single-payer health care coverage” and is titled the
“California Universal Healthcare Act.” This bill provides a road
map for government-sponsored universal healthcare throughout California.

The bill seeks to “establish
the California Healthcare System to be administered by the newly created
California Healthcare Agency under the control of a Healthcare Commissioner
appointed by the Governor and subject to confirmation by the Senate.”
So yes, in an effort to simplify health insurance grants, the bill’s
sponsor, Senator Leno, proposes the creation of an entirely new healthcare
agency, to be presided over by a health czar.

Furthermore, the bill would
“make all California residents eligible for specified health care
benefits under the California Healthcare System, which would, on a single-payer
basis, negotiate for or set fees for health care services provided through
the system and pay claims for those services. The bill would provide
that a resident of the state with a household income, as specified,
at or below 200% of the federal poverty level would be eligible for
the type of benefits provided under the Medi-Cal program. The bill would
require the commissioner to seek all necessary waivers, exemptions,
agreements, or legislation to allow various existing federal, state,
and local health care payments to be paid to the California Healthcare
System, which would then assume responsibility for all benefits and
services previously paid for with those funds.”

In a strange and complicated
explanation, the bill would further create a number of new positions
and offices to oversee the bizarre and seemingly poorly planned out
change, including the creation of a Healthcare Policy Board, an Office
of Patient Advocacy, an Office of Health Planning, an Office of Health
Care Quality, an Office of Inspector General (“within the Attorney
General’s Office, which would have various oversight powers”), a
Healthcare Fund and Payments Board and a California Healthcare Premium
Commission, among other unnecessary additions.

Another worrisome part to this
plan is the proposed prohibitions inherent in it: “The bill would
prohibit health care service plan contracts or health insurance policies
from being issued for services covered by the California Healthcare
System.”

This proposal would further
complicate the already-complicated world of HMOs, and is guaranteed
to make work (and life) harder for physicians, already stretched under
typical working conditions. By instilling a single-payer system, where
residents are assigned numbers, where is the ability to choose one’s
specific healthcare provider? This program is anti-choice, if the state
ultimately has the last say on what exactly a consumer can and cannot
do medically. When physicians are told they must see everyone and anyone,
and will be paid a minimum by the government, where exactly is the urgency
to treat more in-need patients? Once the government determines exactly
who needs what procedures, and when, then the freedom of choice enjoyed
by Californians with their healthcare, will disappear forever.

Most alarming, is how government
representatives feel they are most qualified to dole out healthcare,
when most government officials know nothing about medicine and patient
care. Does it make more sense to trust your health to a career politician,
or to the physician you have selected, and have seen for years?

It is unclear exactly why some
senators feel the need to faze out the Medi-Cal program, in favor of
a similar program, which would grant more power to the California legislature.
Leno’s Web site claims that SB 810 would establish a “modern universal
health care system to cover every California resident with comprehensive
benefits, contains the growth in health care spending and ensures patient-centered
high quality health care. The plan is funded by replacing premiums currently
paid to insurance companies with premiums paid into a health care trust
fund, which saves billions on administrative costs and covers everyone
regardless of their employment status or pre-existing conditions.”
Leno has released no documentation to support this rather important
assertion and serious accusation.

SB 810 was introduced on February
27 by State Senator Mark Leno, of the Third Senate District, of San
Francisco.