By Alia Wilson
Fifty percent of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by a medical situation; either a person’s insurance has limits and he or she surpasses them, or the person cannot be insured at all due to a preexisting condition.
Last April, California State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 840, the California Universal Health Care Act, to solve grievances with California health care. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill in September of 2006, but its supporters continue to campaign for its passage.
In order to promote SB 840, the Santa Cruz Health Care for All Chapter is putting its One Care Now Campaign in the spotlight on March 30 at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall.
According to Carol Robertson, co-chair of Health Care for All Santa Cruz, the primary goal of the event is to educate the public about the bill. One Care Now is the organizing spirit behind a statewide 365-day campaign that started last year on Aug. 12. Santa Cruz’ event will mark day 231.
“If you are already sick, insurance companies are not going to cover the people who need coverage,” Robertson said. “It’s absurd. Such a concept just makes people laugh in other countries.”
The bill would ensure a single payer plan, which would create a fund that is entirely separate from the state general fund.
The bill proposes to contain administrative costs by capping them at 5 cents on the dollar. Private insurance companies spend up to 30 cents on the dollar. Rates would be based on income instead of a flat fee so Californians who make $7000 or less annually would not be charged. Those with higher incomes would be charged proportionally.
SB 840 would also cover all California residents regardless of age or health condition. It is a comprehensive plan that proposes to cover doctor visits, as well as allow patients to choose their own doctor. It would also cover medical equipment, lab work, and anything that a doctor authorizes.
Neal Coonerty, supervisor of Santa Cruz County, owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz, and long-time supporter of SB 840 felt that the bill would provide an adequate support system for California health care.
“The Bookshop Santa Cruz was one of the first businesses in Santa Cruz County to support Health Care for All,” Coonerty said. “A lot of the costs people are worried about [regarding the bill] are already there in some form or another.”
According to Coonerty, opposition to the bill is very similar to last year’s, but now opposing factions are more willing to dialogue.
In 2005 General Motors spent more than $5 billion on mandatory employee health insurance. Its foreign competitors, such as Japan’s Toyota, don’t have to pay for employee health insurance because of their countries’ existing national health care systems.
“They’re at a disadvantage, and are starting to talk about that,” Coonerty said. “We didn’t have that before.”
Continuing opposition does not discourage supporters of the bill, however, as Carol Robertson is determined to convey with this event.
“We have to stay in this fight for the long haul, although it grieves me to say this,” said Robertson. “It may be vetoed again, but we’ll just get a governor who will sign it.”
Kelly Leech, student representative for the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) and third-year Global Economy and Latin American Studies major, said that although universal health care proposes solutions to the state’s health care problems, it leaves a divide between the affluent and underprivileged.
“Idealistically, it’s a good idea, but it’s hard to get unity across those lines,” Leech said. “It may be a long time before this will work, but it’s a great place to start.”