Thousands gathered at Los Angeles City Hall last Saturday to express their support for State Senator Sheila Kuehl’s California Universal Healthcare Act, SB 840.
The Los Angeles rally was the final event in the OneCareNow yearlong organizing campaign in support of SB 840.
Kuehl rallied the crowd by noting there are three things wrong with our healthcare system: “It doesn’t make you healthy, it doesn’t give you care, and it isn’t a system. In the California legislature there are 43 members who are co-authors of this bill. It would set the standard for healthcare in the country.”
Dr. Reed Johnson, who was representing the California Physicians’ Alliance, pointed out that “doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals know that our healthcare system is in crisis because we see human suffering every day. Right now 6.5 million Californians don’t have health insurance and 2,000 of them will die this year. For every one of those people who die needlessly there are many more people who go without treatment, suffer needlessly, face financial ruin, lose their homes or become permanently disabled.”
According to a DVD distributed at the rally by OneCareNow, California’s 365-City Campaign for Universal Health Insurance, the United States spends twice as much on healthcare as other industrialized nations and ranks 37th in the world according to the World Health Organization for healthcare performance.
If enacted, SB 840 would ensure that all Californians would have comprehensive medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug coverage for life. This would be accomplished by having a “single payer” health insurance agency similar to those in other developed nations that insure all their citizens. The agency would be financed by funds already being spent by various government programs as well as from premiums from employers and employees.
The single payer system would be able to afford to cover all Californians, according to Kuehl, by eliminating the funds used for administrative costs by private insurance – which is currently 30 percent of every healthcare dollar – and by purchasing prescription drugs and durable medical equipment in bulk, as well as providing better preventative care and electronic record keeping. However, those entities that provide healthcare, such as doctors, hospitals and pharmacies, would continue to operate privately.
An accountable insurance commissioner, a policy board representing the medical profession and consumers, a physician in charge of quality of care and an inspector general to prevent fraud would oversee this new system.
The California legislature will make its decision on whether to enact SB 840 in 2008.
Others who spoke in support of SB 840 included California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, Democratic presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich, actress Lily Tomlin and United Farm Workers Co-Founder Dolores Huerta.
For more information on SB 840, call 888.442.4255 or go to onecarenow.org.