Blue Shield of California CEO Proposes Universal Care Plan To Cover All Californians
Blue Shield of California Chair, President and CEO Bruce Bodaken has proposed that California adopt a universal care system that would provide "an essential benefits package" through private or public health insurers for every state resident, the New York Times reports. Under Bodaken's plan, which he intends to elaborate upon tonight in a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, most employers in the state would be required to provide workers a package of health benefits, including coverage for preventive care, physician services, hospital care and prescription drug coverage. Small businesses would not be required to offer such benefits under Bodaken's proposal. He also has said that any resident eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families would be enrolled. Residents who remain uninsured would be required to purchase private insurance; residents with higher incomes would have to pay full price for the policy, while people with lower incomes would receive subsidies from the state to help purchase coverage. According to Bodaken, the plan would "generate savings" by expanding access to preventive care, promoting earlier treatment, reducing use of emergency rooms and providing a "more secure financing" system for hospitals, doctors and insurers (Freudenheim, New York Times, 12/3). Bodaken first introduced the proposal in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. He stated, "Universal coverage can be attained only when coupled with universal responsibility. We all must contribute our dollars and our ingenuity to build a health care system that protects everyone" (California Healthline, 12/2).
It would "make sense" for insurance executives to support universal care proposals, according to some analysts. Lawrence March, an analyst at Lehman Brothers, said, "One reason a health insurance executive would propose universal coverage is to be seen as the good guy, not the bad guy, as the patient advocate." Todd Richter, a health care analyst for Banc of America Securities, added that a universal care system "would dramatically increase the size of the market and spread risk better," outcomes favored by the insurance industry. However, Richter said the plan would likely not receive much support from employers, many of whom do not wish incur the cost of providing worker health benefits. Richter added that provision requiring individuals to purchase coverage would be "difficult to enforce" (New York Times, 12/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.