State health reform a charade

first_img New taxes on employers who don’t provide health coverage for workers that is substantially less than what the average California business offering health plans now pay. That’s a huge incentive for employers to reduce health coverage, shifting more of the financial burden to California families, or drop benefits entirely and just pay the tax. A false promise of requiring insurance companies to cover everyone. In fact, the bill has a huge loophole that will allow insurance companies to dump people with “serious medical conditions” into a public pool that will probably be bankrupted by having to pay for the sickest patients – while the insurance companies make hundreds of millions more in profits by only covering the healthiest people. The final package is also expected to include a tax on hospitals that could further jeopardize the survival of public hospitals. The formula, which includes a match of federal funds for the poor, is written in a way that it would return $1.7 billion to private hospital corporations, while California counties would lose about $600 million statewide. Big California hospitals agreed to the tax as a little-noticed separate bill was being passed by the Legislature that delays until 2020 the requirement that unsafe hospital buildings meet seismic safety guidelines. So you’ll have to pay more for health care coverage, and if you can afford to get into a hospital, it just might fall down on you in an earthquake. Perhaps most importantly, AB 8, and the final weaker version that will come from the special session, reinforces the existing dysfunctional system, throwing millions of more people into the insurance-industry meat grinder, while giving the newly “insured” policies they may find will cover immunizations but not cancer. This is not reform, it’s an insurance-industry heist. Rather than completing this fiasco in the special session, it would be better to call it off and start over. Rose Ann DeMoro is executive director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! For careful observers of the California political scene, this united front might have a familiar ring. The same consensus produced the hurried passage a decade ago of energy deregulation. That was followed by blackouts, skyrocketing energy costs for consumers, and open thievery by Enron and other energy corporations. Second was the demolition of workers’ compensation in California by the same coalition. That call to slash business costs – backed by the same folks now touting AB 8 – led to a rushed “reform” that, according to a employer/worker state commission, ended up cutting average benefits by 50 percent for workers on permanent disability due to work-related job injuries. Following that history of failure, we now have the framework for the latest debacle. The bill passed by the legislature has: No controls on runaway costs of premiums, deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, drug prices, or annual fees imposed by doctors. No minimum standard of health benefits for middle-income employees who don’t qualify for state subsidies. The likely result is those people would end up with junk insurance – high-deductible plans with low standards of covered benefits, and costs that will continually rise. ANYONE wondering why so many voters distrust politicians might want to take a look at the charade on health care reform being performed in Sacramento. Under the whip of California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu ez and Senate President Don Perata, with the active prodding of some labor and interest groups desperate to settle for any health care legislation no matter how bad it is, the California Legislature last week passed a fundamentally flawed bill that just might set back real reform for years. To make matters worse, they passed a bill they know will be vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a starting point for negotiations to pass an even worse bill in a special legislative session now under way. Ironically, the Democratic leadership passed the weak bill, AB 8, after refusing to unite behind a single-payer, Medicare-for-all approach, SB 840, as they did last year, because they said SB 840 would be vetoed. last_img read more