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Bill calls for single-payer insurance

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Marisa Saldaña
Staff Writer

The California Legislature is considering a single payer health care bill that could decrease costs for state residents.

According to the text of the bill: “All residents of this state have the right to health care. While the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) brought many improvements in health care and health care coverage, it still leaves many Californians without coverage or with inadequate coverage.”

The state bill, known as the Healthy California Act, or Senate Bill 562, would create a health care plan that will provide all residents of California with medical services including inpatient or outpatient care, emergency care, dental, vision, mental health, and nursing home care, while reducing co-pays and deductibles.

The bill also allows Californians to choose who they want to see for treatment instead of being referred to one by an insurance company, as long as the provider is allowed to do so.

According to the bill: “Existing state law creates the California Health Benefit Exchange, also known as Covered California, to facilitate the purchase of qualified health plans by qualified individuals and qualified small employers.”

According to the Knox-Knee Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975, the Department of Managed Health, Department of Insurance and Department of Health Care Services help regulate what plans are available and who is eligible to receive them.

The bill, in part, would take aspects of already existing programs such as Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medi-Cal and Medicare, and incorporate them into a new system.

However, not everything can be carried over from the previous system.

The bill would also need a Healthy California Board, a group of nine new members to determine the execution of various aspects of the bill.

According to the bill, “(It) would provide the board with all the powers and duties necessary to establish the Healthy California program, including, but not limited to, determining when individuals may start enrolling into the program, employing necessary staff, and negotiating and entering into any necessary contracts.”

A public advisory committee would also need to be appointed by the Secretary of the California Health and Human Services to oversee new policies.

In recent years, taxpayers have experienced a cost increase in health care coverage including rises in premium prices, deductibles and co-pays.

Because of this, businesses are offering less benefits in their health care plans for their employees, or deciding to not offer it all together, according to the bill.

It is still unclear where exactly the funds to pay for the expansive services this bill intends to cover will come from. Though the bill is only in the early stages of the legislative process, it has already received strong opposition from health insurance providers.

Richard Gelm, professor of political science, said the bill has potential to become law.

“If the goal in mind is to grant health care access to more people, then the single-payer system is the only way that works,” Gelm said.

With a population of 39 million, California has more residents to disperse the cost of a single-payer system across.

“If California can take the lead in this it can pressure other states into doing the same, and maybe even creating a federal single-payer system in the future,” Gelm said.

There is concern however, about how a system like this would work and how it would affect the medical system.

“There are always pros and cons to every aspect of government health care programs,” said Cynthia Denne, director of student health services at the University.

Some states and countries with a single-payer system experience longer wait times to see medical professionals.

“A lot of doctors go into the health industry because they have ideas on how to make the system better, they can innovate. But there’s no incentive to do that in a single payer system, it may drive people away from the field,” Denne said.

The Healthy California Act differs from the GOP Health care Bill that was approved by House of Representatives on May 4 in place of the Affordable Care Act.

The GOP Health care Bill, which has yet to go to the U.S. Senate, has caused concern on how it will affect both patient and practitioners alike.

“It is not clear on what problem it intends to solve. If it’s affordability, it doesn’t solve that. If it’s accessibility, it doesn’t solve that either,” Jason Neidleman, professor of political science and Chairman of the political science and history department said. The Healthy California initiative has increased support over the past few months and it will continue to travel through the legislative process.

For more information visit leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.

Marisa Saldaña can be reached at marisa.saldana@laverne.edu.

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