UNIVERSAL CARE: SB 480 Unsigned, but Task Force Moves Forward
Although state Sen. yHilda Solis' (D-El Monte) SB 480, which supporters say establishes "universal health coverage as a state goal," still awaits Gov. Gray Davis' approval -- he has until Oct. 10 -- health-policy experts at many University of California campuses are already preparing to carry out the bill's directives. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the experts are looking at "an exhaustive study of the costs and effectiveness of three strategies: a single-payer system, incremental expansion of existing programs and market-based incentives such as vouchers or tax credits." Judy Spelman, a Bay Area emergency nurse and chair of the study's consumer advisory board, said, "The study would give us an objective look at how to provide high-quality health care for all Californians," after which will most likely be "one of the biggest political battles California has ever seen." State Sen. Solis said, "It's a very important issue for many Californians who lack access to health care." The Union-Tribune reports that seven million Californians currently lack health insurance.
Jumping the Gun?
Researchers are already debating how to implement the study, faced with the option of the university consortium performing the study or doling out the work to private sources. Dr. James Kahn, the director of the University of California-San Francisco Institute for Health Policy Studies, is leading the planning and wants his academic coalition to perform the entire study at a cost of $1 million over two years. Kahn said the study will be more accurate than the other option of using computer models developed by outside consultants. Meanwhile, E. Richard Brown, director of UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research, said his program is accepting bids from experienced impartial think tanks on ways to save money and time and add political clout. The Union-Tribune reports that an ad-hoc group of experts was called in to settle the dispute and is expected to make a decision in two weeks. But the entire project might not see completion unless Davis signs the bill. Dr. Mark Smith, California HealthCare Foundation President, said he "is concerned that the state government is not committed enough to contribute to paying for the study" (Duerksen, 9/27).