Saturday, September 24, 2005

Improving health care in CA

Minotaur rocketHealth care should be one of the top three or four issues for the Green Party* because it is an important issue--and a source of stress--for a lot of people, it's getting worse, and the Democrats and Republicans aren't doing much about it, at least not nationally. In California, there is actually a really good piece of Democratic legislation on this topic, but it isn't clear how much effort Democrats are willing to put into it.

A workshop at the Green Party gathering last week was about this topic--achieving universal health care in California through Health Care for All's legislation, SB 840, sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D). (It was endorsed by the state Green Party earlier this year).

The workshop moderator, Don Bechler, a veteran of this struggle, was pessimistic about chances that the legislation would become law, even though it has majority support by both houses of the legislature. One problem is that to pass the second part of the legislation, which will specify the tax changes to pay for it, will need 2/3s to pass, and no Republicans support it. Bechler suggested that a massive effort was needed to convince ordinary people that universal single-payer health care would be an improvement, and to help them contact their representatives in the state legislature.

I have a different idea. Although SB 840 would replace the health insurance industry, it isn't an anti-business bill. It should be cheaper to pay for than what many companies pay for health insurance already. And it would improve labor relations. Frankly, I'm surprised the bill doesn't have support from some big businesses, and I still think they would be a natural ally in this fight.

Going this route would involve more behind the scenes lobbying, but it doesn't have to replace the direct voter contact that would help build the Green Party by linking us to this important issue.

While we're on the topic, this was in the L.A. Times today (in a different section from the pretty picture above):
Shift Is Seen in Health Coverage for Kids
By Debora Vrana, Times Staff Writer

Fewer than half of California's children will have health coverage through a parent's job by 2010 if current trends continue, according to a pair of studies released Thursday.

Rising premiums are eroding coverage of children nationwide, and the result is more of them are enrolling in tax-supported public programs such as Medi-Cal, according to the studies, released by the nonprofit California Endowment.

If premiums continue to rise at current rates, an estimated 2.7 million more U.S. children will shift to public insurance in five years, according to one study, conducted by the nonprofit Economic & Social Research Institute in Washington. The second study, by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, estimated the number in California at 470,000.

On the positive side, fewer children are uninsured in California now than five years ago, the studies found.

Coverage for children jumped to 88% in 2004 from 83% in 2000, the UC Berkeley study found. That's because more children lacking employer-sponsored insurance were covered last year by Medi-Cal or the state's Healthy Families program for children.

*Except we don't really prioritize issues, which is a problem in itself.


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