CA Health Care Reform Archive: SB 840 Veto 2006

California Legislature Passes Universal Coverage/Single Payer Bill, Governor Announces Veto – September, 2006

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced he will veto the universal health coverage/single payer bill, Sen. Kuehl’s SB 840.  This is his third strike on health access.  He has also opposed employer mandates, and expanding public health insurance programs.  He has made no proposal for covering the state’s 6.5 million uninsured.

An outpouring of support NOW will set the stage for 2007, even if the Governor does not relent.

Call the Governor’s automated hotline to express support for SB 840, before September 30:
(916) 445-2841, options 1-2-4

Email: http://www.govmail.ca.gov takes you straight to the page where you can send your own email message to the Governor: “Sign SB 840!” [see sample message below]

Write or fax:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
FAX: 916-445-4633

See below for:

  • more details on the single-payer veto,
  • a list of other bills on the Governor’s desk that public health groups are urging him to sign – Please add one or more to your message to the Governor – and
  • a sample letter on SB 840 and the veto.   – Ellen Shaffer

From Health Access: GOVERNOR TO VETO UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE BILL (SB840)

Even before SB840(Kuehl) lands on his desk, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared that the bill that would provide every single Californian comprehensive benefits and better health care a “serious and expensive mistake.”

The Governor announced his intention in an op-ed that ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune: (http://www.gov.ca.gov/index.php?/press-release/3751)

In that article, Schwarzenegger laid out his rationale for his planned rejection of SB840. Among his reasons, stating that it is “socialized medicine” that would create a “vast new bureaucracy to take over health insurance and medical care for Californians,” and that it would lead to “significant new taxes on individuals and businesses.” To Schwarzenegger, SB840 did not solve “the critical issue of affordability.”

Supporters of SB840 disagree, and argue that the proposed framework is one of the most comprehensive efforts put forward to acheive health care affordability, since it would attempt to control costs through prevention, planning, and administrative simplification. The financing of the health care system under the SB840 framework would have taken the existing money already paid into the system through employers, employees and the government, and redirected in in a more efficient manner. They pointed to independent studies that suggest that the approach would have actually saved money.

The bill’s author for the past four years, Sen. Sheila Kuehl, shot back with this statement. http://democrats.sen.ca.gov/templates/SDCTemplate.asp?a=6092&z=144&cp=PressRelease&pg=article&fpg=senpressreleases&sln=Kuehl&sdn=23

“Such a statement shows that he has not read the bill, doesn’t understand the bill, or is being completely misdirected by his handlers,” Kuehl said.  She took issue that the Governor made the decision before ever meeting with her, or having the bill reach his desk.

Schwarzenegger did not put forward a specific alternative, and he reiterated his intention to announce his plans for health reform in January 2007, if re-elected.

This is the third year that Governr Schwarzenegger has opposed efforts to expand coverage and make health coverage more affordable for Californians, without putting forward a proposal of his own. For instance:

* In 2004, he actively campaigned against Proposition 72–passed in the legislature as SB2(Burton)–which would have required large employers to provide health coverage to their workers.

* In 2005, he vetoed AB772(Chan), which would have expanded public health insurance programs like Medi-Cal and Healthy Families to cover all children in California.

* In 2006, he plans to veto SB840(Kuehl), to create a universal, publicly-funded health care system to provide health coverage and financial security to all Californians.

OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH BILLS THE GOVERNOR SHOULD SIGN:

From California Center for Public Health Advocacy – child nutrition and wellness bills:
AB 2205 (Evans) will make it easier for recipients of health care assistance to enroll in food stamps and free meals at school.
AB 2384 (Leno) will make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable to low-income Californians.
AB 569 (Garcia) sets the stage for action to require that breakfast be served at schools with large percentages of low-income kids.

From Health Access:

HEALTH CARE ACCESS & COVERAGE

AB2889 (Frommer) – Prohibits health plans from discriminating against people who have been insured, but who have chronic or serious illnesses in certain instances.

SB437 (Escutia) – Streamline and simplifies enrollment into children?s insurance programs.  This is an extremely tame version of the bill, which was originally intended to expand coverage to all children in California

SB1702 (Speier) – Extends sunset for current Managed Risk Medical Insurance Program.

CONSUMER PROTECTIONS AGAINST MEDICAL DEBT

Hospital Overcharging of uninsured patients

AB774 (Chan) – Provides consumer protections against abusive hospital billing and collections practices, including those that charge uninsured patients multiple times what insurers pay for the same service. Patients under 350 percent of poverty, or with inadequate insurance qualify for discounts.

Affordable Prescription Drugs

AB2911 (Nunez/Perata) -  Authorizes the state to negotiate for the best possible price for up to 6 million Californians. The first three years, the program is voluntary. However, after August 1, 2010, if drug companies are not participating or their discounts are still insufficient, the state may use the purchasing power of its Medi-Cal program to steer some business away from less cooperative drug companies.

AB2877 (Frommer) – Establishes a website for consumers to compare prices on prescription drugs, but no longer links to Canadian websites.

PATIENT PROTECTIONS

Medicare Part D Patient Protections

AB2170 (Chan) -  Creates a consumer report card on Medicare Part D prescription drug plans

AB2667 (Baca) – Allows the state to monitor Part D prescription drug plans in the same way it monitors health plans

Insurance Oversight

SB1704 (Kuehl) – Extends sunset for the existing California Health Benefits Review Program to 2011.

Sample letter to the Governor:
Dear Governor:

I am writing to express my support, as a public health professional, for SB 840, the California Health Insurance Reliability Act, which would cover every Californian with comprehensive health insurance and give them the ability to choose their own doctor.  This model is estimated to save $8 billion in statewide health care spending the first year alone, and would save money for families, businesses, individuals and local governments.

I am alarmed that you have announced your intention to veto this important bill.

As a public health advocate, I know how lack of access to health care negatively affects the public’s health and wellbeing.  Assuring universal coverage for health care will significantly reduce and redistribute the burden of health care costs that drives too many households into financial distress, at the same time reducing the social and economic disparities that contribute to many illnesses. Universal coverage is essential for a population-based approach to maintaining health, and preventing and treating illness.

Over 6.5 million Californians, or more than 20% of the state’s population, went without insurance in 2003.  That’s one in every five Californians. The uninsured receive inadequate care and often can’t purchase needed prescription medications. Untreated illnesses that progress to greater severity are more dangerous for patients and more costly for the system.

As health insurance costs skyrocket at double digit rates every year, employers are now reducing coverage and dropping benefits altogether.  The increase in high-risk “catastrophic” health plans, with unaffordable deductibles and co-payments, has completely failed to stem the rise in costs.   Instead, half of all bankruptcies in the United States are now related to medical costs. Seventy five percent of those bankrupted families had health insurance at the time they became ill or injured.   The simple truth is that average Californians can no longer rely on their health insurance.

The United States spends twice as much per person on health care as every other industrialized country, yet we are the only industrialized nation where people go bankrupt because of medical costs.  We have fewer physicians and fewer hospital visits per capita than many other industrialized countries. Most importantly, our health care system as a whole ranks at the bottom among industrialized nations, according to the World Health Organization.  If all that money hasn’t bought us better health care, where is it going?

A recent Boston University study found that our current system wastes nearly 50% of all health spending on clinical and administrative waste.  It is estimated that, by streamlining the administrative functions of thousands of different insurance companies, California could shift $20 billion in the first year from administration into direct health care.  Also, by consolidating California?s purchasing power for pharmaceuticals, California could shift an additional $5.3 billion into direct health care.  Finally, by providing preventative and primary care to everyone California could actually save an additional $3.4 billion in the first year.

CHIRA would affordably cover every Californian with a high quality of care and comprehensive benefits.  Every Californian would be covered by an insurance plan that provides medical, dental, vision and prescription drug coverage, including hospitalization, emergency room care and transportation, laboratory work, skilled nursing care, mental health care, drug addiction rehabilitation and chiropractic care.

Californians want access to this kind of high-quality, affordable health care.  Most importantly, they want a health care system that they can rely on.  CHIRA gives every Californian reliable health insurance along with freedom of choice.  Please take a stand in support of real health reform.

My public health association and I strongly support SB 840.  I urge you to sign this bill.

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