Why Is Single-Payer Needed in California?

With as many as 6,000 plans to choose from in California, administration of multi-payer health insurance is inefficient and costly. It is also unfair. Some people have easy access to the care they need, while others have difficulty finding and affording care. Unregulated insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays continue to increase while insurance company profits continue to rise. Millions of people go bankrupt from medical costs even though they have paid premiums for health insurance. The national Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not adequately address these issues and fails to provide universal coverage.  California now has the largest number of people without health insurance of any state in the nation—close to seven million, or about 20% of all residents. Fewer people are insured through their employers, and the purchase of comprehensive coverage is unaffordable for growing numbers of individuals and families. Nearly one in four workers in California has no insurance. More than half of uninsured children in 2010 were in families where the head of household worked full-time. Almost one-third of the uninsured in California have family incomes of $50,000 or more. Nearly one in four of the uninsured are between the ages of 25 and 34. (California Healthcare Foundation, 2010)

In addition to the millions without health insurance in California, millions more are underinsured. Many employers do not provide any health insurance benefits. In 2009 two million Californians bought health insurance policies on the individual market (Wall Street Journal, 2011). With the high rates of the individual market, many who can only afford “catastrophic” coverage, find themselves underinsured while facing increasing premium costs. At times, rates have been hiked by as much as 40%. In California the insurance commissioner does not have the authority to regulate insurance rates.

Having a high percentage of the population uninsured or underinsured not only impairs the quality of life for millions of people, it is costly for all Californians. Use of expensive hospital emergency rooms for routine care and the need to treat serious conditions resulting from delayed care contribute to higher insurance premiums and inefficient use of taxpayer dollars.