June 17, 2005

Editorial:

Time for a Universal Health Care Plan

There is something seriously wrong when this country and our employers can no longer afford to provide healthcare benefits for its workforce. We hear of it on a daily basis now, General Motors is going to cut health care benefits with or without the Unions blessing. Janitors in San Diego are striking over health care benefits. Teachers in the county are going to the bargaining table with health care benefits at the top of their list. The mantra of the striking grocery workers was that they were on strike for workers everywhere in their fight for benefits - clearly a fight that the employees are losing.

In last week’s edition of La Prensa San Diego we brought you the story of the challenges facing janitors who while working for the minimum wage of $7.60 per hour cannot afford the necessity of health care, which leads to these families only seeking health care only in an emergency, which in turn costs taxpayers.

The primary benefits of working for a large company is health benefits and a retirement package. Workers look to their company as their only opportunity to provide health care benefits for themselves and their families and that once they are no longer able to work they can retire without the fear of losing what they had work their whole life for -- peace of mind. Today these benefits are dwindling and the burden of health care and retirement benefits is more and more becoming a personal choice. A choice that working class Mexican American cannot afford.

A recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that one in three working Hispanic adults is uninsured. And, about 35 percent of Hispanic adults with jobs are uninsured, compared to 18 percent of employed African Americans and 11 percent of working white adults. According to the U.S. Census Bureau an estimated 45 million people lacked health insurance coverage in 2003.

Health insurance is the domain of private industry which pegs insurance rates to corporate profit, which in turn drives up rates to the point that health insurance, is quickly becoming a luxury for the working man and is practically non-existent for the small business owner and their employees. There comes a time when some things should not be left to the whims of corporate profit, a lesson we learned with the deregulation of gas and electricity and outrageous markup on our gas bills!

In the last week of May Senate Bill 840, by state Senator Sheila Kuehi, D-Santa Monica, was passed to establish a universal health care system that would replace existing private plans. The Democrat-led Senate voted 24-14 for the measure, sending it to the Assembly.

It has been acknowledged by its Democratic supports that this bill is not a finished product but a work in progress, it is a project whose time has come and is one that should be refined and presented to the voters. Contact your Assembly and urge their support for a Universal Health Care Plan. As the richest country in the world, health care shouldn’t be a luxury.

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