As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Urgency Of Health Care Reform For California

The Department of Health and Human Services released a report on the current state of health care in California, and the numbers are striking. It also can help us understand a bit about our budget woes.

19% of all Californians are uninsured, and of those, 71% are in families with at least one full-time worker. Employer-based coverage has dipped to just 54%, meaning the rest have to either go to the individual insurance market, qualify for a public coverage plan like Medicare or Medicaid, or go without. The top two insurance providers in California account for 44% of the health insurance market, and such a duopoly make it easy to just jack up rates year over year. The average family premium has increased 114 percent since 2000. And this causes families to drop coverage due to a lack of affordability. This nugget appears in the report:

"California businesses and families shoulder a hidden health tax of roughly $1,400 per year on premiums as a direct result of subsidizing the costs of the uninsured."

But one other entity suffers from that hidden tax: the state budget. Health care spending by the state has increased well above the CPI, and Medicare and Medi-Cal spending have ballooned because the cost of health care has ballooned. Growing ranks of the uninsured and unemployed increase the numbers eligible for coverage under state programs, and one political party, at least, would rather offer those services instead of watching people die in the street. We hear at the federal level that health reform is entitlement reform; that's just as true at the state level, as bending the cost curve will put state budgets in a better position for the future.

All of this adds up to create a sense of urgency in doing something about overhauling the broken health care system this year. This could have been the narrative that Dianne Feinstein brought forward in public statements, not hand-wringing about the difficulty of getting something done in Washington.

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