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Robin Wallace: Healthy California — let’s act!

Other Voices
Robin Wallace

I wonder where Rich Ulery (Other Voices, “Single-payer health care won’t work”) would have been on the subject back in 1965.

That was the year when Medicare (a single-payer health insurance program for those over 65) was finally signed into law. Prior to that, 56 percent of people 65 and older were not covered by health insurance. Finally, we as a nation had decided that we did not want to see our aging population going without their basic health care because they couldn’t afford it; nor did we ever want to be among them. (A small example: not to be able to afford needed supplemental oxygen in order to breathe.)

Seven years later, in 1972, President Nixon signed into law the first major change to Medicare, expanding coverage to include individuals under the age of 65 with long-term disabilities and individuals with end stage renal disease (a devastating and extremely expensive disease).

We were evolving into the kind of nation we wanted to be regarding health care for people in need. Today, it’s fair to say that most people celebrate becoming 65 so they can be covered by Medicare.

Medicare has continued to evolve over the past 52 years. Just as in any situation in life, problems present themselves, and solutions are tried and put into effect. Many reform provisions were put into effect from the Patient Protection and Affordable Act of 2010, (aka Obamacare) intended to contain Medicare costs while at the same time increasing services. Yes, according to the Congressional budget office, the reforms are working.

Medicare recipients who can afford a supplemental insurance usually have one; just as they do in Canada which has had a single-payer Insurance system for the past 50 years. Canadians, by a huge majority, are very proud of their egalitarian health system. To be clear, their health system is publicly funded by the federal government (from taxes, it is not free, but it is universal). Most importantly, actual health care is delivered privately by health care providers. The Canadian government does not own the hospitals or have health care providers as their employees (With the exception of Veteran Affairs facilities, as it is in the United States). The Canadian health care system is not going broke as Mr. Ulery claims.

Yes, the United States does have the best medical care available to those who can afford the costly health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays (Just imagine never having to hear those words again). Many in our country do not mind the exorbitant profits made by the health-insurance companies. But many other people who work very hard still struggle to meet their basic needs, and health care can be seen as a luxury. Others among us believe that health insurance should not be a “for profit” industry.

Here’s the good news: In February, Senator Lara and Senator Atkins introduced a new single-payer bill: Californians for a Healthy California Act. (SB 562) “In light of threats to the Affordable Care Act,” Senator Atkins stated, “it’s important that we are looking at all options to continue to expand and maintain access to health care. The Healthy California Act is an essential part of that conversation.”

For information and sign up to support: http://www.healthycaliforniaact.org.

The bad news: You can be sure that the health insurance companies will be lobbying heavily to kill this bill!

If California succeeds with implementation of SB 562, a single-payer health insurance plan (“Medicare for All”) for our state, who knows, the rest of the nation may finally “see the light” and follow suit.

Robin Wallace lives in Nevada City.


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