Laurie Porter: Single-payer health care will benefit California
A recent opinion piece in The Union alleged that Senate Bill 562, single payer health care, “ … could bankrupt California.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is, single-payer health care will benefit California in many ways.
When I first started working as a school teacher 30 years ago, I received money back in my paycheck for health care because I chose the less expensive option of an HMO. As the years passed, I was asked to pay into the health care, and when I retired two years ago, I was paying almost a thousand dollars a month to supplement my employer’s contribution to health care.
Now my husband is on Medicare, thank goodness, so as a retired teacher I pay $1,254 a month for health care for myself and our son.
But wait, that’s not all we pay. Each time we visit a doctor, we have a $20 co-pay.
Last year I fractured my arm when I fell off my bicycle, and that single injury cost $2,500 for our deductible before the insurance began to cover all the expenses. If something had happened to our son, we would have had to pay an additional $2,000 deductible before the insurance covered the expenses. Fortunately, I was able to refuse the expensive prescription painkillers and make do with aspirin.
But I consider myself privileged. At least I have health care. In my 30 years in the classroom, I saw families who over and over used the emergency room for illnesses where I could call my health nurse for advice over the phone. My children got their teeth cleaned regularly, and my husband received an eye exam and updated glasses every year. Many of my students struggled with tooth decay and poor vision that was not corrected. The cost to society of this kind of haphazard health care is incalculable.
Single-payer health care will not cost California money. California currently spends over $365 billion a year on health care which includes Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, ACA subsidies, emergency room subsidies, insurance premiums for employees, costs to keep county hospitals open, mental health services, money spent by employers on health insurance premiums and other health benefits, and money spent by individuals on premiums, co-pays, deductibles, fees, medical equipment, and so forth.
A detailed study of SB562 conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts (Economic Analysis of the Healthy California Single-Payer Health Care Proposal SB-562) predicted that the cost of single payer health care in California would be about $330 billion annually. In other words, Single-payer health care will save California $35 billion each year while covering Californians with better quality health care.
Opponents of single-payer health care often cite the failure in Vermont to implement the program. This is a straw man argument because California’s health-care plan addresses the problems that caused single-payer plan to fail in Vermont. Among the many problems of the Vermont plan was that it exempted large businesses that operate in multiple states. The proponents also had no clear plan for how to incorporate federal plans such as Medicare. The Vermont plan added expensive administrative complexity that short-circuited a major reason California’s plan is so attractive and saves money for patients and doctors alike: simplicity.
Single-payer health care will turn California into a magnet for businesses looking to escape the crushing expenses of health care in the rest of the country. When the province of Saskatchewan in Canada introduced universal health care in 1947, it was an immediate success. Within 20 years the other provinces followed and universal health care was implemented throughout Canada. Today, Canadians enjoy one of the highest quality of life found in the world.
California will become a model for the rest of the country when the state changes over to single-payer health care.
In the end, financial studies show that single-payer health care will have a positive economic and social effect on Californians. Instead of asking how we can afford Senate Bill 562, the question should be, how can we afford to let this opportunity pass us by?
Laurie Porter lives in Nevada City.
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As a 20-year resident of our fine city of Grass Valley, I got a good giggle out of Christian Stewart’s commentary about opposition to mining from a recent emigrant and a rightly concerned community.