No, Sharon, Single-payer Healthcare will NOT “cost the entire CA budget.” (Plus Correa, Ortega)

We like Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva. She’s the best Assemblymember the OC has. She has recently been a leader on housing, homelessness, mental health, and a veterans’ cemetery.

We realize she can’t be a leader, or expert, on everything. And she is not an expert on healthcare reform. But our hearts sunk with disappointment last month when she responded to our friend Matt Leslie’s tweet with a piece of false health insurance industry propaganda:

Well! It’s simply WRONG to mention the “COST” of a program, or the cost of anything, without subtracting its SAVINGS. And if the savings are bigger than what it “costs,” then there IS no cost, or a negative cost. And that’s the case with single-payer health care. In fact it’s the whole idea of single-payer! (Along with covering everybody, and saving and improving lives.)

So “What would you cut?” is a nonsensical question. The question should be “What should we do with our savings?” [For details, see “Into the weeds” below***]

Sharon used to know this. When I first met her about 15 years ago I was running the OC chapter of Health Care For All California (which I started with Allan Beek in 2005), and I think she was running for Fullerton Council with her friend Pam Keller. Our grassroots group was trying to get Senator Sheila Kuehl’s SB 840 passed, and Sharon and Pam signed on. (We had a decent number of conservatives too, ones that understood the unnecessary waste of the current profiteering non-system.)

I devoted years to trying to pass single-payer in California, and not because I’m a nice person who thinks about health care a lot, but because I saw the health care industry (especially insurance) as one of the most egregious examples of big unethical corporations, with the government in their pockets, swindling The American People while causing unnecessary death and misery.

Eventually I got ADHD and handed the OC chapter off to friends, and it still carries on under Janet Meslin. Senator Kuehl has long been termed out, and is now an LA Supervisor (a long journey from Dobie Gillis and the Beverly Hillbillies!) Now we’re fighting for a similar bill, Ash Kalra’s AB 1400. Assemblyman Kalra has tabled his bill until FEBRUARY, because it lacked sufficient support in assembly committees. OC’s fine senators Josh Newman and Dave Min are down with the bill, but it needs more Assemblymembers like our Sharon and Cottie Petrie-Norris. Governor Newsom, a longtime single-payer advocate, would sign it, and California would once again be leading the way for the rest of the nation.

We don’t expect Sharon to be a leader on health care reform, she’s doing enough on other fronts. But we hope she will be a yes vote on AB 1400, and we urge her not to thoughtlessly pass on falsehoods from an industry that doesn’t want to be canceled.

* * * “Into the Weeds” * * *

Or, Skip to the Lou!****

If you want to hear the details about why we say Single Payer saves, rather than COSTS, money: It’s generally estimated California spends $450 billion a year on healthcare; under a single-payer bill such as AB 1400 that would become $400 billion, for a savings of $50 billion. And at the same time EVERY CALIFORNIA RESIDENT would be covered, much more thoroughly than most of us are: “including all primary and preventive care, hospital and outpatient services, prescription drugs, dental, vision, audiology, reproductive health services, maternity and newborn care, long-term services and supports, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse treatment, laboratory and diagnostic services, ambulatory services, and more. Patients will have freedom to choose doctors, hospitals, and other providers they wish to see, without worrying about whether a provider is ‘in-network.'”

In 2017 a team of economic analysts from the University of Massachusetts studied California’s previous single-payer bill, SB 562, which is very similar to AB 1400; the “abstract” of their study is worth copying here:

The State of California is considering a bill to create a statewide single-payer health care system. This study provides an economic analysis of the proposed measure, The Healthy California Act (SB-562). The study includes four major sections: 1) Cost Estimate of Universal Health Care Coverage in California; 2) Cost Saving Potential under Healthy California; 3) Financing Healthy California; and 4) Impact on Individual California Families and Businesses.

The primary goal of Healthy California is to provide high-quality health care to all California residents, including those who are presently either uninsured or underinsured. The study finds that the providing full universal coverage would increase overall system costs by about 10 percent, but that the single payer system could produce savings of about 18 percent. The study thus finds that the proposed single-payer system could provide decent health care for all California residents while still reducing net overall costs by about 8 percent relative to the existing system.

We propose two new taxes to generate the revenue required to offset the loss of private insurance spending: a gross receipts tax of 2.3 percent and a sales tax of 2.3 percent, along with exemptions and tax credits for small business owners and low-income families to promote tax-burden equity. Within this proposed tax framework, Healthy California can achieve both lower costs and greater equity in the provision of health care in California for both families and businesses of all sizes.

Thus, net health care spending for middle-income families will fall by between 2.6 – 9.1 percent of income. Small firms that have been providing private health care coverage for their workers will experience a 22 percent decline in their health-care costs as a share of payroll. The small firms that have not provided coverage will still make zero payments for health care under Healthy California through their gross receipts tax exemption. Medium-sized firms will see their health care costs fall by between 6.8 and 13.4 percent as a share of payroll relative to the existing system. Firms with up to 500 employees will experience a 5.7 percent fall, and the largest firms, with over 500 employees, will experience a 0.6 percent fall as a share of payroll relative to the existing system.

**** Skip to the “LOU”

On the national level, single-payer is more of a far-off dream than it is in California, and that dream is currently incarnated in Bernie Sanders’ SB 1129, which had 14 senate co-sponsors last year. But there IS a house bill that’ll do a pretty large chunk of what single-payer would do, i.e. bring American DRUG prices down substantially. That’s Frank Pallone’s HR 3, nicknamed the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, and it would accomplish this goal mainly by allowing the government to purchase drugs in bulk, negotiating prices down.

And THAT bill, HR 3, seems to have a good chance of passing, just to judge by all the fear-mongering ads Big Pharma has been running against it. The ones they repeatedly show on TV (MSNBC) don’t mention the bill’s name, just darkly that there’s a bill out there that will allow the government to negotiate-down drug prices, and that this will lead to rationing health care, an end to research, long waits, a denial of medications to seniors, and, you know, DEATH PANELS.

These ads are purposefully being shown HERE, targeting the Anaheim / Santa Ana district of Congressman Lou Correa, at the same time as Big Pharma has sent out at least three mass mailers lauding and thanking the conservative Democrat for supporting and assisting “innovation” in the drug industry. Remember, I wrote about the first one that came in August, a mailer that gave Lou the coveted “Healthcare Innovation Award,” and asked his constituents to thank him for standing against the feared reform. Lotsa free campaign ads for Lou, as well as encouraging public lobbying of the dude!

As I’ve written there and elsewhere, Lou’s always been frustrating on things like health care reform, or anything that threatens big corporate profits. What was he up to now, why was his “no” vote on HR 3 so important to Big Pharma, and could they really count on it? Lou had avoided talking to me since 2018 when I called him “anti-immigrant” for endorsing anti-immigrant Don Barnes for Sheriff. But we saw that he was making an appearance at a Santa Ana Senior Center, so I thought that’d be a good opportunity to ask him why he was opposing the best chance we have to keep drug costs down!

And I got a SORT of answer from him – he says he is fine with the bill, fine with allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices down, fine with everything in HR 3 WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE PROVISION IN BOLD BELOW:

The Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act would lower the cost of prescription drugs by:

Empowering the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate better prescription drug prices in Medicare and make those negotiated prices available to commercial health insurance plans:

Capping Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs at $2,000 per year;

Reversing years of unfair price hikes by requiring drug manufacturers to pay a rebate back to the federal government if they increase prices faster than inflation; and

Reinvesting federal cost-savings in the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to support research and development of new breakthrough treatments and cures, as well as making investments in combatting the opioid crisis.

Claimed Lou, “I can’t get behind that rebate part, and I told Pramila Jayapal that in a letter. YOU like Pramila Jayapal, don’t you?” I hadn’t really thought about whether I like Jayapal (right) or not, but paying more attention to her on TV since that day, I suppose I do like the head of Congress’ progressive caucus – she’s tough, smart and realistic, sort of like a Pelosi for Progressives.

But in any case, that’s what Lou told ME about his position on HR 3, the Lower Drugs Costs Now Act – he only disagrees with one provision. Meanwhile his Big Pharma financers want him to tank the whole bill. So let’s see what actually happens, if that provision stays there, and how Lou actually votes.

Meanwhile he has a Progressive Challenger next year, name of Mike Ortega, campaign kickoff this Sunday at Twila Reed Park:

Press Advisory

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Contact: Alex Coronado alex@ortegaforcongress.com

Mike Ortega (D) to Formally Launch His Campaign for the CD 46 U.S. House Seat on Sunday, December 5th,at Twila Reid Park in Anaheim

Democrat Mike Ortega will hold the official kick-off event of his bid to unseat incumbent Rep. Lou Correa this weekend.  Mike is running on a platform of returning government to the people of the district instead of the special interests who hold too much sway in Washington. 

Mike’s platform contains raising wages, including raising the federal minimum wage, Medicare for All, and far-reaching criminal justice and immigration reform.  A key issue in the campaign will be Lou Correa’s public leadership in watering down President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, including by actively protecting the ability of big drug companies to gouge consumers and by fighting efforts to stop large profitable companies from parking profits overseas to avoid U.S. federal taxes. 

“I am anxious to begin the conversation with the people of the 46th Congressional District about how we build an economy that benefits middle class and working families,” said Mike Ortega.  “For too long the ultrarich and large corporations have had their way in Congress.  Sadly, Lou Correa is a leader in putting the Special Interests ahead of the public interest.  He was one of a handful of U.S. House members who worked against the agenda of the President and his fellow Democrats.  The people of this district deserve better.”

Mike’s launch event is free and open to the public. 

Interested media is asked to contact the campaign. 

WHAT:  Mike Ortega’s Official Campaign Kick-off

WHEN: 1 pm, Sunday, December 5, 2021

WHERE: Twila Reid Park, 3100 West Orange Ave, Anaheim, CA 92804

Update Dec. 5

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.