San Jose Mercury News Examines State Health Care Reform Plans
The San Jose Mercury News today examines recent health care reform proposals, particularly a universal health care plan, in California. The Mercury News reports that despite the high cost of implementing health care reform and the state's "growing" budget deficit, the economic crisis is adding "a new sense of urgency" to the public debate over universal health care coverage (Sevrens Lyons/Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 12/5). On Tuesday, Blue Shield of California CEO Bruce Bodaken 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 that would require most employers and individuals to join (California Healthline, 12/3). In addition, Gov. Gray Davis (D) last month announced that he "would like to see every child in this state have health insurance," and three state lawmakers, including Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), have proposed health reform plans. Further, Rick Brown, a professor of health policy at the University of California-Los Angeles, has proposed a "pay or play" program, under which employers must either offer insurance to employees or give money to a state fund to cover health benefits for employees. Some people have proposed that the state adopt a "single-payer" system, under which one entity, such as the government, covers the cost of care for all residents. However, some have criticized such a plan as too costly, restrictive and bureaucratic. Health care experts believe that if universal health care "ever becomes a reality," it will happen in California within the next five years, according to the Mercury News. "California is the biggest laboratory there is," Peter Lee, CEO of Pacific Business Group on Health, said, adding, "Although the budget reality in Sacramento is grim, the problems in the health care system are so huge it creates an opportunity for real change" (San Jose Mercury News, 12/5).
As CEO of a "huge" insurance company, Bodaken's call for universal health insurance is "not necessarily a surprise," but it "adds momentum" to a debate that "promises to put health care near the top of the public's agenda" next year, Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub writes. Weintraub says that lawmakers must "tread lightly" because health care reform is filled with "unintended consequences," such as making consumers even more unaware of how much care actually costs and putting more pressure on the current system. According to Weintraub, the "most effective way" to expand access to health care is to "control costs" by putting consumers "back in charge of their own health care dollars" (Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 12/5).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.