Single-payer health care discussed at Nevada County town hall | TheUnion.com
Matthew Pera
Staff Writer

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Single-payer health care discussed at Nevada County town hall

Pam Hart, left, asked the panelists questions from the audience, which were written on notecards and collected by volunteers.

County residents filled the Nevada Theatre Tuesday night for the Health Care for All Town Hall, which included a documentary screening, a special guest speaker and a panel of guests answering questions from the audience.

"We have an historic opportunity," said Michael Lighty, the special guest speaker, who is director of public policy for National Nurses United.

Lighty and the panelists who joined him Tuesday believe that California's Senate Bill 562, the Health California Act, could create a unique, state-initiated health care system that provides universal coverage and benefits at lower costs than the current federal health care system.

The Healthy California Act proposes eliminating health insurance companies and replacing them with a government-run system funded by taxes. The insurance companies currently waste billions of dollars on administrative costs each year, advocates for the bill argue, and that waste could be significantly reduced with a single-payer system.

SB-562 also proposes eliminating insurance company premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.

The panelists all agreed that the current health care system in the U.S. isn't working.

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"We're not looking to take a good system, tweak it a little bit, and make it better," said Keith McClallin, a licensed physician's assistant and a health care activist. "We're looking to take a vicious, lousy, profiteering system and replace it."

The current system, said McClallin, is "queued up to cause the next economic crash."

Catherine Kennedy, a staff nurse at Kaiser Permanente in Roseville, said she worries about the future for her seven children and five grandchildren. "I worry every day about whether they're going to be able to access health care."

Kennedy's worry, she said, stems from the consistently increasing price of insurance under the current system. She argued that those costs could be reduced if private insurance companies, who have to appeal to shareholders and watch their bottom line, were eliminated.

"We need to take the profit out of health care," she said.

An audience member asked the panelists whether they thought there would be enough resources and doctors in California to support the increase in care that would result from switching to a system with universal coverage.

"I think physicians will actually be attracted to a state with a single-payer system," said Aldebra Schroll, who left her role as a primary care physician because of the burden of excessive paperwork resulting from a multitude of different insurance companies having their own unique filing systems. She said eliminating that extra work that doctors' offices are responsible for would be an added incentive for physicians to join or start a practice in California.

Switching to a single-payer system in California would be a fiscally responsible decision, said Lighty. He argued that SB-562 should receive bipartisan support because it would create a more efficient, streamlined, and less expensive system.

He said that 70 percent of health expenses in California are already paid for by the government, in response to concerns about giving government control over the system. Those expenses, he said, are paid through existing programs like medicare and the subsidies that Obamacare provides.

"We already have a publicly funded system, we're just not getting our money's worth," he said.

But for Lighty, it's not all about economics.

"When we talk about health care, we're also talking about justice."

A system that rations health care services based on who can afford them, he said, is a driver of inequality. He argued that our current system does just that.

"We have a responsibility to fix this," he said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.