Dozens attend forum on single-payer health care – Orange County Register

As the California state Senate moves forward with The Healthy California Act, which would create a universal single-payer health care plan for the state, the pros and cons were debated during an educational panel discussion at Laguna Niguel City Hall on Thursday, July 27.

The Healthy California Act, SB562, would eliminate health-insurance companies and provide government-funded health coverage for every California resident. The program is estimated to cost $400 billion annually and would require tax increases.

Laguna Niguel Chamber of Commerce and Orange County Association of Health Underwriters hosted the panel, with Mayor Jerry Slusiewicz moderating. Nearly 70 people attended the free event.

“We’re glad that we can host this single-payer health care in California panel discussion,” Slusiewicz said.

Panelists included state Sen. Patricia Bates, physician Dr. Jeffrey Barke, president of Orange County Association of Health Underwriters Juan Lopez and past president of National Association of Health Underwriters Alan Katz.

Slusiewicz said the panelist selection was “trying to be fair,” with Katz, as the only panelist in favor of single-payer health care, speaking for 10 minutes and the other three panelists opposed speaking for five minutes each.

Community members listen to a single-payer health care panel discussion at Laguna Niguel City Hall on Thursday, July 27. (Emily Rasmussen, contributing photographer)

Katz kicked off the discussion highlighting three primary reasons – moral, economic and efficiency – why some people support a universal single-payer health care system.

“The moral argument is pretty straight forward — people shouldn’t die or suffer because of lack of health insurance,” Katz said. “In a country as great as America and a state as great as California, we should not sit by and watch people suffer needlessly when action can be taken to get the access they need.”

Katz admitted that although SB562 does not go into great detail on its financial plan, universal or single-payer health care concepts do have economic benefits. One he pointed to was money being sucked from businesses having to provide health insurance, which reduces opportunities to hire more people or to increase their workers’ salaries.

Regarding efficiency, Katz said that with a typical American having many different health care payers, for example the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, medical or worker’s compensation, things can get confusing when care needs to be administered.

Bates followed up Katz’s presentation with some information about the process of how SB562 has progressed through state Senate, noting the complications of transitioning to a single-payer health care system.

“I don’t believe we have legislators in Sacramento who don’t believe that everyone in the state of California should have quality health care and access to that health care — trying to find the formula that provides that is really what the dilemma is,” she said.

Bates said the SB562 program does not work financially in the way it was presented because it didn’t have a funding plan.

“There is a real cost containment issue that has not been addressed in the financial planning — which just doesn’t exist,” Bates said. “How do you fund something that assures that every resident of California has access to quality care and the providers of that care will have the authority to give that care?”

Bates also noted the potential of people from other states trying to take advantage of the state’s health care system if SB562, or something similar, passed.

Katz admitted this could be an issue for any state-by-state approach, but that advocates of SB562 argue that passing a bill such as this would force Washington D.C. to do something for health care nationally.

Barke, a family-medicine physician based in Newport Beach, strongly opposed SB562 or any other universal single-payer health care system.

“This notion that somehow every person, every citizen has a right to health care, I’m here to tell you is garbage,” Barke said. “We all want affordable health care, and when it’s affordable it’s accessible to more and we want high quality. There’s only (one way) ever invented for that to occur and that’s free-market competition.”

Lopez, who also opposed SB562, said the current system is good, but needs to be improved.

“When I look at the numbers, I’m not sure that the state can afford such a single-payer (health care) bill,” Lopez said. “Although I do believe that every American should have access to care — and I said that very clearly in that every ‘American’ should have access to care, I’ll let you read between the lines — it should be affordable and we should all try to get the best quality.”

Attendee Cristina Parks said she thought the panel was interesting and came out with the same opinion of SB562 prior to attending.

“I work for a health insurance agency, and we are pretty strongly against SB562,” Parks said. “Having the government’s involvement with (health insurance) is not the best idea — we still need a lot of independence and the opportunity to make our own decisions.”



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