On Monday, August 28th, Senate Bill 840, authored by State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-23), passed out of the California State Assembly on a preliminary vote of 43-30 (final vote expected to be 44-31).
SB 840 provides a concrete plan for covering every California resident with comprehensive health insurance, saves the state of California, businesses and working families nearly $8 billion in the first year, and guarantees our right to choose our own doctor. The bill will now return to the State Senate for concurrence and is expected to reach the Governor’s desk by September 1st.
SB 840 provides comprehensive medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug coverage to every California resident. This broad coverage is made possible through a streamlined claims and reimbursement system that is projected to save billions of dollars in administrative costs. SB 840 allows California to use its purchasing power to negotiate bulk rates for prescription drugs and durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, thus realizing an additional $2 billion in savings, SB 840 preserves the status of healthcare providers, hospitals and pharmacies as private, competitive businesses.
The plan is funded by drawing in current public spending and replacing all premiums, co-pays and deductibles paid to insurance companies with premiums paid to the system. As amended, the bill creates a blue ribbon panel of health, finance and technical experts to lay out the mechanics for an affordable premium structure using information gathered in available funding studies.
“The growing cost of health insurance is bankrupting our businesses and working families. Our health care system is being decimated to pay for insurance company waste”, says State Senator Kuehl. “SB 840 is the right solution for California’s broken health care system. It covers everyone, it contains costs and it improves quality – most important, it guarantees your right to choose your own doctor.”
“This plan provides security and savings to every California family, helps businesses by reducing their health insurance costs, and saves the state almost a billion dollars”, said Speaker Fabian Nunez. “The Governor should sign this historic bill.”
“Right now we have a broken system that leaves too many Californians in medical or financial jeopardy and a system that hinders economic growth”, said President Pro Tem Senator Don Perata. “SB 840 is responsible, it’s achievable and it’s what we need to do to fix the health care system in California.”
(Comment by Don McCanne: SB 840 has already been passed by the California State Senate. It will return there for concurrence in an amendment calling for a commission to establish the mechanics of a premium structure, and then will move on to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk.)