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California proposes state-run health care

With the Affordable Care Act threatened nationally, CA senators have now proposed a state-run plan.

Sol Mendez, Staff Writer

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With millions of Americans at risk of losing their health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, state legislators in the California Senate introduced a possible alternative that would establish health care covering all 38 million Californians — including undocumented residents.

On Feb. 17, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens along with Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego proposed a single-payer healthcare system. While there are still no solid specifics to the bill, it does allude to the replacement of private insurance with a government plan that would pay for statewide coverage. It would also allow the state to negotiate prices for all services and prescriptions of its citizens’ health care providers.

Tony Sinay, professor and chair of the Department of Health Care Administration at Cal State Long Beach, suggested that the bill would probably only have an affect on those students who are under their parents’ healthcare plan.

“It would affect the student’s parents, I would say, because they are the ones who are holding health insurance. Most students, if not all, are covered under their parents’ insurance,” he said.

On whether students who received healthcare services from school would be affected, Sinay said probably not.

CSULB’s Student Health Center would not be impacted, as it does not receive government funding, but is fully supported by the student health fee that is included within tuition.

For California, it would not be the first, but the third time that the bill would be up for passage. Legislators of the state signed off on the bill in both 2006 and 2008, but were rejected by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2006, he explained his veto by stating, “This bill would require an extraordinary redirection of public and private funding by creating a vast new bureaucracy to take over health insurance and medical care for Californians — a serious and expensive mistake.”

While proponents of the bill often argued that a single-payer system would overall have a lot of appeal to the state due to its assumed simplicity and ability to control costs, opponents in the senate argue that it would raise taxpayer costs and give government too much power over its citizen’s insurance.

For Lara, however, the longtime promise by President Donald Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act concerned him. Lara stated in an interview with The Sacramento Bee that Californians needed to be prepared in case the Affordable Care Act was repealed.

“As California leaders, we will be responsible for the delivery of healthcare for millions of people,” he said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee on Feb. 17.

The California Nurses Association, the primary sponsor of the proposed bill held a rally in support on Feb. 22 in Sacramento. Bonnie Castillo, associate executive director for CNA, said the goal is to create a system that included everyone as well as help relieve patients’ financial burdens.

“Patients and their families are suffering as a result of having very high co-pay and premium costs,” Castillo said. “They are having to make gut-wrenching decisions whether they go to the doctor or they stick it out and see if they get better on their own.”

In 2005, when the bill was first introduced by then Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica a committee analysis expected that the proposition would cost the state about $167 billion, $72 billion of which would be covered by existing federal, state and local revenue. The rest would come from various new taxes, something that Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, is wary about. Levitt expressed that while a “one-system” approach is very appealing, it would more likely mean a tax increase on California citizens.

Canada is currently an example of what a universal health care system looks like, and also started out in a similar way. When its plan was first implemented in the 1990s, the system rolled out steadily on a province-by-province basis, but led to increasingly long waits to see a doctor –  something that drove Canadians to visit the U.S. for medical treatments.

California could become a pioneer for a universal health care system in the U.S. A possible concept that has been mentioned by those in senate is to bring together funding from several health care plans under one “umbrella:” Medi-Cal, which covers the poor; Medicare, which covers older adults; and private insurance agencies.

Lara, however, has stated that the bill is still in the legislative process and no clear budget or plan is set as of yet, and while California is still continuing to defend the Affordable Care Act, it is time to put forward an alternative.

“I think we’ve reached a tipping point now that we haven’t had before,” Lara said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee.

Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act is proving harder to repeal than Republicans had hoped. While President Trump and Republican congress members made dismantling the Affordable Care Act a first priority, no alternative replacement has yet been announced. Sen. Rand Paul, (R-Kentucky) who is for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan, “My staff is still going around Washington looking for the bill.”
*Info from, Kaiser Health News, LA Times, Daily News, and Capitol Weekly

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