Health care is breaking our hearts

State Sen. Sheila Kuehl is a Democrat representing the 23rd District.

For more information on SB 840 visit

Chico rally: The 365-city Campaign for Universal Health Insurance comes to City Plaza on Saturday (April 14) from noon to 4 p.m.

Let’s be honest. What we’ve been doing about health care in this country just isn’t working.

Over the last decade, our health-care “system” has become trapped in a continuous downward spiral: declining patient-care quality, unaffordable yearly jumps in premiums and reduced benefits. Insurance companies report record profits while salaries for primary-care doctors are largely frozen and hospital emergency rooms operate in the red. Every year we pay more, get less, and insurance companies make off with the difference. Our past efforts at reform are like a failed relationship that we can’t seem to let go of. We give up more and more in the hope that something will change.

But, by any measure, our health-care system gets deeper in trouble. There are 6.5 million uninsured in California. Our health-care spending takes up 15 percent of our gross domestic product, and it’s growing much faster than our economy. That means that health care is much more expensive relative to our incomes. The growth in health-care spending is bankrupting our state, our businesses and working families.

California, it’s time to move on with our lives. It’s time we ask for what we really want and what we deserve: affordable, high-quality health care for all.

Real universal health care is demonstrably possible. SB 840 (the California Universal Healthcare Act), a bill I am carrying in the California Legislature, covers every California resident with comprehensive, affordable health benefits, and contains the growth of health-care spending while improving quality. Most importantly, it gives patients total choice of their doctors and hospital.

It works by consolidating the money we—employers, families and government—currently spend on health care. Everyone pays something in and everyone gets coverage—just one affordable premium—without co-pays or deductibles. This allows us to reduce the costs of administering our fragemented system from 30 cents of every health-care dollar to 5 cents, a savings of $20 billion in the first year.

The plan also puts California’s purchasing power to work by giving the state the ability to negotiate large discounts for prescription drugs and other health-related goods. But SB 840 is not a radical change for how care is delivered. The delivery system would remain fully private and subject to market competition.

This is the only plan that will bring California a truly universal, affordable and modernized health-care system.