Full disclosure, I've been honored to be asked to assume a position on the board of California OneCare, which I expect will be formalized sometime after the first of the year.
Why what happens in California is critical for the entire nation.
When the Deficit (Catfood) Commission released its report in early December, I told you that Dean Baker, one of the finest economists we have, very succinctly explained, that controlling healthcare costs was the essential piece of the puzzle in tackling our massive budgetary crisis.
It also would have pointed out that the huge long-term projected deficits are entirely attributable to the broken health care system. If the United States paid the same amount per person for health care as countries with longer life expectancies we would be facing huge budget surpluses, not deficits. However, because it editorial position dominates its news section, almost no readers of the Post would know this simple and important fact.
By now, we all know that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, simply reshuffled the deck chairs on the Titanic. Most tragically, this legislation entrenched and enshrined the for-profit insurance industry at the center of our "reformed" 21st century healthcare system.
As insurers continue to raise premiums and cut benefits, Health and Human Services is relegated to pleading, cajoling and threatening, but in the end, can do little to control them. This is an uncontrollable industry.
As you know, California is headed over the fiscal cliff. There is only one solution. California must assert its purchasing power, get rid of the fragmented and expensive for-profit insurance system, and cut administrative waste out of the healthcare system. This can only be achieved through a single-payer, universal healthcare system.
This won't be easy. Insurers see California as a human gold mine of illness, pain and suffering. They see such enormous riches in the individual and small group market, that they have decided to begin selling child only policies, simply so they don't lose market share in the massive and highly lucrative California market.
Don't be fooled, here's why the bastards are selling to children. And this is why we will need everyone helping to defeat this predatory industry, first in California and Vermont, and then across the nation.
This is a California fight, this is an fight.
Anthem, the largest insurer in the individual market, will work with regulators to start selling again "in the best interest of our customers in California," spokeswoman Peggy Hinz said of the Woodland Hills company.
There is plenty at stake. California's private insurance market — where individuals and small businesses buy coverage — generated $17 billion in revenue last year. The market is only expected to grow as millions of uninsured Californians buy coverage, beginning in 2014, through a new marketplace exchange set up as part of the federal healthcare law.
"California offers a significant opportunity for us and we believe we will be highly competitive in this market," Cigna spokeswoman Gwyn Dilday said in announcing the Philadelphia company's decision to resume child-only sales.
Here's reality in California.
This gives you a sense of the dire state of affairs in California.
Health costs in California and across the nation are simply unsustainable.
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reported on a Commonwealth Fund Report as follows.
We're all paying much more, every year for much less. And the ones who continue to pay the exorbitant premiums and accept insurer price gouging as a routine part of life in America, are the lucky ones, tens of millions of other Americans, are just giving up and going naked--uninsured.
Still, researchers from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund called California's numbers troubling. They said the results underscored a nationwide pattern of employers and workers shouldering higher insurance costs for increasingly skimpy coverage that often requires large out-of-pocket spending.
"Regardless of where you live, families and businesses are under pressure to hold on to health benefits," said Cathy Schoen , a Commonwealth Fund senior vice president and the study's lead author.
What you need to know is that eliminating the for-profit insurance industry is not a California issue any more than passing the legislation for the 9/11 First Responders was a New York issue.
The United States is trailing by every metric.
California and Vermont will take the lead in making healthcare a right, but in doing so, will also lead the nation in establishing the concept that market driven, for-profit healthcare is something we can ill afford as the parasitic insurance corporations skim profits at a time of crippling budget deficits.
This is how the United States stacks up. This is unacceptable.
So what can we, and you expect from the insurance corporations as this initiative from California One Care and other groups gathers steam and supporters?
How's this for frightening? AHIP isn't enough, they want even more influence in Washington and throughout the nation.
The insurance corporation will spare nothing, to be sure that we do not succeed.
If When we are successful in California and Vermont, this will be the camel's nose under the insurers tent. They will do anything they can to destroy us, we know this.
This will be the most ugly and brutal struggle imaginable. We will only be successful if everyone understands this is a battle, not just for California but for America--for all of us.
Can we count on all of you to support a real citizens grassroots movement?
I'll end by suggesting you watch this interview from the Institute for New Economic Thinking with Charles Ferguson, the director of Inside Job. In it Ferguson talks about how political change will likely come from a social movement not from either the Democratic or Republican parties.
We hope the work of bringing affordable, high quality health care--privately delivered and publicly funded to every resident of California will be the spark which will ignite a new Progressive social movement across the country.
We are attempting nothing less than the dismantlement of the private health insurance industry in our largest state.
If you want to watch this powerful interview in snippets you can do so here.
One final point, as the PPACA comes under judicial and assault as Republicans pick up seats in the House and Senate, no one can argue with the legalities, the constitutionality, of improving and expanding Medicare and making it available to all Americans.
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