Mindy Oberne: The real deal on SB 562, the single-payer legislation | TheUnion.com

Mindy Oberne: The real deal on SB 562, the single-payer legislation

Other Voices
Mindy Oberne

Why can't the media report the real news on SB 562?

When the report came out of the Senate Appropriations Committee that SB 562 would cost $400 billion dollars to cover everyone with no way to fund it, mainstream media was quick to report the news. However, they left out some important details.

They neglected to report that we already spend $365 billion while leaving millions uninsured or underinsured (14.7 million Californians). The Appropriation Committee's speculative $400 billion report included no cost savings that comes with a single-payer system. Since the financial study had not been completed, details of the savings and funding mechanism were not included in the committee hearing, a fact never explained in mainstream reporting.

Now that the financial study is out (https://youtu.be/d8xKnYYB684) and findings show it would actually cost $331 billion, saving $70 billion while providing everyone with much better services like dental and vision, why is mainstream media not reporting that? There has been no big story done on the study, which is essential if people are to know all the facts. Instead, the media continues to harp on the old report of costing $400 billion with no way to pay for it. An omission of such important information is either poor journalism or journalism influenced by special interests.

It seems apparent that the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries are already influencing what information is distributed to the public.

What should be reported at this time is this: Based on the fiscal study by Robert Pollin, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, here are his findings about SB 562: Under the Healthy California Act, California's total spending on health care, with savings of 18 percent produced by reductions in administrative costs, the use of state bulk purchasing power, and improved patient care delivery, would drop to $331 billion. That figure includes $225 billion of current taxpayer-funded spending on Medicare, Medicaid and tax subsidies.

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Most news stories claim there's no way to fund it. When we do get a few details, they're inaccurate. Yes, there is a plan on how to finance the extra $100 billion needed. A 2.3 percent tax on business' gross receipts has occasionally been reported, but they neglect to report that there is an exemption for the first $2 million. This means any business grossing less than $2 million will have health insurance for all its employees without costing that business a dime. This a big win for small businesses. Why aren't we seeing this reported?

When the other means of raising money is mentioned, a 2.3 percent sales tax, there's no mention that this replaces what one currently spends on premiums, deductibles, copays as well as dental and vision care; and for seniors this eliminates gap insurance now needed to cover deductibles for Medicare. It also doesn't mention this sales tax would not apply to essentials like food and utilities; nor is there mention of a 2.3 percent tax credit for lower income families to counteract the extra sales tax proposed.

It is essential that the public understand how they will save money and get better health care, but mainstream media doesn't report this.

When reporting the discussion on the Senate floor, the media reported many more negative quotes than the positive responses, even though during that discussion there were as many senators speaking for the bill as there were against.

Healthcare foundations have active media companies, including Kaiser Health News, which was absent and made no mention of the study on its media page. The California Health Care Foundation granted $110,000 to Capital Public Radio in 2014 to fund a healthcare reporter in Sacramento. There was no mention by the station of the study or press conference.

Bias like this in our mainstream media is very disturbing. It seems apparent that the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries are already influencing what information is distributed to the public. This undermines the foundation of our democracy, as a well-informed public is essential. Using fear tactics to influence public opinion in the wrong direction is nothing new. So we must understand more so we can fear less.

Mindy Oberne lives in Grass Valley.

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