Single Payer is Back

As expected, California State Senator Sheila Kuehl has reintroduced her single payer proposal, Senate Bill 840. Last year virtually the same legislation was passed by the the Legislature and vetoed by the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  There’s lots of information about the bill and a video of the Senator’s press conference on her web site.

In the interest of full disclosure: I think Senator Kuehl is a terrific person. She was my dean at UCLA (many, many years ago). I contributed to her early campaigns (she was first elected to the State Assembly in 1994). Unlike some politicians who use health care reform as a platform for political advancement, Sheila truly believes the government should provide health care for all its citizens. I disagree with her, but I respect her intellectual honesty and passion for the issue.

It’s Senator Kuehl’s very real commitment to make single payer a reality in California that will lead her to introduce a an initiative for the 2008 ballot — once SB 840 is again passed by the Legislature and vetoed by the Governor. Which is exactly what will happen. After all, Democratic legislators know the Governor won’t let a single payer system come to pass. So why not vote for Senator Kuehl’s bill? The true believers in the Legislature will support it because they are, well, true believers. And for others it’s a risk free way to please the party’s core constituency without harming the state’s economy. It’s no coincidence that single payer bills did not get to the Governor’s desk when a Democrat sat there.

We’ll be dealing with the single payer debate for some time. Fortunately, there’s lots of arguments against a government takeover of the the state’s health care system. And Health Underwriters has made it easy to find and marshall those arguments in conversations with your clients, letters to the editor and presentations to community groups.

In 2006 the California Association of Health Underwrtiers did a study examining — and refuting — some of the financial assumptions underpinning SB 840. You can check it out here.

Meanwhile the National Association of Health Underwriters has an entire tool box of presentations, fact sheets and the like on “The Three Myths of a Single-Payer Health Care Delivery System.”While I’m surpised an organization comprised mostly of sales people would stick a name like that on something so important, it’s very much worth exploring. Especially useful is a PowerPoint Presentation agents can use to talk about the subject in their community.

Also on the NAHU site is a video of one of their members, Reid Rasmussen, giving the presentation at the organization’s recent Capital Conference. It’s long (60 minutes) and huge (141 MB in QuickTime), but again, it’s definitely worth the investment of your time. To download the video, click here and then find the “The Three Single-Payer Myths” headline.

In the months ahead there will be a lot of noise about single payer. Agents need to address the issue, but they can’t lose focus on what’s at stake with the other health care reform plans out there. These proposals can do just as much damage to our client’s health security, and to our profession, than SB 840. What’s worse, however, is that one of them could actually become law. Fortunately, CAHU is coming out with an alternative reform plan, which I’ll discuss in my next post. Please stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “Single Payer is Back

  1. No. I wouldn’t. I think America’s health care system can and should be improved. While I respect Sheila’s opinion, I don’t agree with her that a single payer system is the way to fix things. In fact, I think it will make things worse. In a few days I’ll post a proposal I helped CAHU develop. I think it goes a long way toward helping folks get the health care coverage they need. I hope you’ll take a look at it and let me know what you think of it.

    You bring up another issue I’ll post on later — the 47 million uninsured. It’s worth looking at who they are and what their needs are. What you’ll see may surprise you.

    Thanks for the comment.

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