Chico and the Man

That was an impressive group Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger brought with him to Little Chico Creek Elementary School Monday (June 11)—half a dozen state agency heads in addition to his large retinue of aides and security men. Clearly, with all that expensive firepower, they were on an important mission. But what was it, exactly?

The event was billed as a “town hall meeting,” but there wasn’t much to the “meeting” part (see our report, “Dueling diagnoses,"). Only six questions got asked, and three of them were scripted. Mostly it was the governor and his cabinet secretaries speechifying, touting his accomplishments and agendas and giving him an opportunity to charm folks, which he does masterfully.

But the event did have a significant unscripted aspect, thanks to a sizeable contingent from Chico’s OneCareNow group, which supports state Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s bill that would establish a Medicare-style universal health-insurance program in the state. They held signs and passed out fliers challenging competing plans, including Schwarzenegger’s, that would allow the insurance industry to continue skimming 30 percent off the top of the health-care business.

As the governor acknowledged Monday, the state’s health-care system is “failing people,” beginning with the 6.5 million Californians who lack insurance. But those who do have private insurance are seeing their premiums skyrocket, and businesses are being dragged down and made less competitive by high costs, too. The governor wants to try to fix the current system, but the truth is that it’s well beyond repair.

His effort to keep the insurance companies happy and the campaign donations flowing won’t work and will only delay the inevitable. Experience shows that Kuehl’s plan would run as simply and efficiently as Medicare and guarantee health care for all. Now’s the time to adopt it.