The Real Sticker Shock — Not Passing the Healthy California Act
By Deborah Burger, RN
***Ed Note: The following article is one viewpoint on SB 562, the topic of our Head to Head feature in June. On June 22, an opposing viewpoint was published in the article “Single Payer Government Takeover of Health Care Would Devastate Small Business.”
Talk about sticker shock. Opponents led by a private insurance industry that profits off denying care are peddling the deception that SB 562, the Healthy California Act, would break the bank.
Here is the inconvenient truth they ignore: The real budget buster is the present, unsustainable, system.
Today, California spends $368 billion a year on health expenditures. Without effective price controls, the present system will continually cost more every year, hitting $578 billion by 2025, according to a study by University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute researchers.
With nearly 15 million in our state either uninsured or underinsured, Californians are paying premiums at such high out-of-pocket costs that they often skip needed care and put their own health at risk or sacrifice other basic needs for their family.
And it may soon get far worse if Congress and the Trump Administration push through their draconian health scheme.
It is fiscally prudent for California to get ahead of federal policy changes and lead with our own progressive program. The Healthy California Trust Fund devoted exclusively to healthcare financing is an accountable, transparent and sustainable way to establish healthcare security for all Californians.
With SB 562, everyone will have comprehensive coverage — including prescription medications, dental, vision, mental health and long-term care. It is real patient choice with one medical card, good at any hospital, doctor’s office or clinic.
No more skyrocketing premiums, deductibles and other escalating costs for families and businesses. No more sticker shock that devastates families, hounded by bill collectors and threatened with bankruptcy or loss of credit due to unpayable medical bills.
And California will actually save an estimated $70 billion from what it spends today, according to the research.
Under the single-payer health care plan there would be no more waste on administrative profits, paperwork focused on billing and denying needed care, or million dollar executive pay packages. Inflated pharmaceutical, insurance, and hospital charges also would also be eliminated through the purchasing power clout of the state.
In its place would be a system that emphasizes primary and preventive care, not profit taking.
We can guarantee health coverage for all Californians and eliminate premiums, deductibles and other medical costs with a 2.3% gross revenues tax and 2.3% sales tax. That would actually result in nearly all California households and businesses spending less on healthcare costs than they do today.
Housing, food, utilities, and personal services would be exempt from the sales tax, and businesses with fewer than 10 employees would be exempt from the gross revenue tax. Also, payroll taxes for all California businesses that currently provide health benefits to their workers would be reduced.
SB 562 is no dream or fantasy; it’s legislation.
Should California risk the threat of what may come out of Washington, or leave the present unsustainable system in place? Or, should we instead take a bold step to protect the health and security of all Californians, and lower what they spend on healthcare today?
Deborah Burger is a registered nurse and co-president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. The opinions in this article are presented in the spirit of spurring discussion and reflect those of the author and not necessarily the Treasurer, his office or the State of California.