Laureen Echeverria of Lincoln, CA, asks California OneCare:

I have a question about the timing on California OneCare. With a bad economy, high unemployment, and government furloughs, is this the best time to be championing universal health care in California?  As much as I believe and support the one-payer program, I don’t believe we can achieve the public and political support to push this legislation through at this time.

I believe right now we should be concentrating on reining in the ever increasing medical premiums and decreasing benefits that the private insurance companies are imposing on us now! Just recently, the Department of Insurance approved premium increases up to 24%, which may be effective as early as October 1, 2010. Californians should be outraged at this highway robbery.  We should write our state representatives and protest, or have a public protest in front of the insurance companies’ headquarters!

When the economy recovers in California, we should move forward on the California OneCare Program, when the people are more receptive to the plan.

Also, shouldn’t we be pushing for universal health care for our entire nation, and not just California?

Laureen Echeverria

Dear Laureen –

Thank you for your thoughtful comments and questions. Permit me to respond on behalf of the California OneCare Campaign.

There are several reasons to champion single payer health care right now, rather than waiting until the economy improves. The most compelling reason is that a single payer system like California OneCare would save money for families, businesses, and government, and help the economy rebound. California OneCare would save the state billions, and would go a long way toward alleviating the financial crisis we are facing. Local governments and school districts would save millions each year under a single payer plan, freeing up funds for municipal services and education. And families would pay less for health care than they do now, which would put more money in in their pockets and stimulate the economy at the consumer level.

The reason that a single payer system would save money addresses your second concern: reining in the insurance companies. There would be no need to fight with insurance companies under California OneCare because they would be eliminated altogether. Right now, private health insurance companies squander 31% of every premium dollar on administrative costs, profiteering, and outrageously high executive salaries while providing nothing in the way of actual health care. The money that would accrue from eliminating them would be more than enough to cover all California residents comprehensively at lower premiums with no exclusions, co-pays, or deductibles.

Our goal is to bring single payer, universal health care to the nation as you suggest. But the Obama administration and Congress have made it clear that that such a plan is “off the table.” Meanwhile, we have a real chance at passing single payer legislation here in California. Single payer bills have a history of success in California, having been passed twice before, only to be vetoed by the Governator. We currently lack only two or three votes in each house of the legislature to gain the two-thirds majority necessary to pass the tax portion of the legislation and override a governor’s veto if necessary.

So our goal right now is to do whatever we can to be sure that single payer supporters are elected in November. A California OneCare bill will be introduced by Sen. Mark Leno early next year and will come to a vote late next summer. When it passes and a sympathetic governor signs it, we must prepare to protect it against the attacks from insurance companies that will surely follow in 2012.

So there’s no time to waste. In order to have the benefits of California OneCare–full care, for all, for less–we must fight for it right now.

Thank you for your interest and for your support of California OneCare.

Don Schroeder, Co-Chair
California OneCare Campaign