Universal healthcare is in reach for California.
Nowhere else in the developed world does anyone pay so much for such poor results. Every day our neighbors suffer and die from curable and preventable illness simply because they cannot afford the exorbitant costs of treatment. We need a single-payer system, and we need it now.
“Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” – James Baldwin
Healthcare should not be contingent on your income. Healthcare should not be contingent on your job. Healthcare should not be contingent on the whims of an insurance adjuster. Healthcare is a human right.
Healthcare must be free at the point of care. And healthcare must be universal.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, granted access to health insurance to millions of Americans. But the legislation was written by the medical insurance industry to protect themselves, not to help us.
Leaving health insurance in the domain of the “free market” is a deeply flawed solution. As long as the profit motive remains in healthcare, insurers will be motivated to skimp on care, deny coverage and drive up premiums and deductibles — hurting their patients at every stage. We must value people over profit. Always.
“…the uninsured rate in California dropped by nearly half, from 16% in 2013 to an all-time low of 9% in 2016. However, 2.9 million Californians remained uninsured.” – California Healthcare Foundation, 2018
The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage to millions of people, but it has done nothing to bring down prices. Year after year the state of California allows premiums to increase by double digits. In 2018 the average increase across the state was 12.5%, in 2019 it is estimated to be 9.7%.
Now, people are paying an average of $500 a month or $6,000 a year, just for coverage. Families are paying more than $1,000 a month. That doesn’t include deductibles or the cost of care. 10% of income is going into the pockets of health insurance bureaucracies.
“Over the past five years, the average annual deductible among all covered workers has increased 53%.” – Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018
High deductibles, co-pays, and the cost of treatment are also climbing, nearly doubling costs for anyone who has insurance.
This is impacting lives. If families are spending nearly $20,000 a year in premiums and deductibles, then they have no money left over to save for retirement or emergency expenses. Average workers are left with a dire choice: health or savings.
Many people are choosing to go without coverage altogether, leaving them with few options if they get sick. Instead of preventative care overseen by their primary doctor, they are forced to seek help in emergency rooms where bills easily reach thousands of dollars for one visit. Long term health suffers because people wait until they are in crisis. These costs continue to add up for patients and the state.
Meanwhile health insurance CEO’s are paid millions of dollars a year to oversee a system that is bankrupting families. And those profits are then used to protect their monopoly on our health by funding politicians to block a fair system. As long as our healthcare is privatized patients will suffer physically and financially.
“Four in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money… Over one-fourth of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 due to being unable to afford the cost.” – US Federal Reserve, 2018
Many life saving drugs are also kept out of reach of patients, pharmaceutical companies hide behind patents to protect profits and insurance companies deny life saving medications because of the price.
The cost of insulin, a critical part of managing diabetes, nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016. There is absolutely no reason that any drug that has been in use since 1921 should ever double in cost, let alone doubling in just four years.
Image from the Health Care Cost Institute, 2019
We can choose to continue to tinker and tweak the system as it stands now, hoping for a future that is slightly better. Or we can choose the solution that has worked over and over in countries across the world: provide single-payer, universal healthcare for everyone.
With a single-payer system:
- We save an incredible amount of money
- Life-saving medication won’t be out of reach for those who need it
- Workers aren’t tied to jobs they don’t like by insurance they cannot afford to lose
- Families don’t go bankrupt because of serious illness — right now 42% of cancer patients exhaust their life savings within 2 years
- Small employers don’t have to worry about picking an insurance plan for their employees, or renegotiating those terms every couple of years
In truth, our country needs a federal Medicare For All plan like what Bernie has been championing for years. But we cannot afford to wait for Congress to solve this for us. California is the world’s fifth most powerful economy — we can afford to make the Healthy California Act a reality. We can show the rest of the country that a healthy future is possible.
Better and more preventative treatment reduces the risk of minor injuries turning into catastrophic woes. It’s time we joined the rest of the world in treating health as a public good, not a commodity to be traded for profit.
The costs of healthcare has a direct impact on issues like housing as Californians are squeezed by increasing costs on all sides.