June 18 2004

Health Care Crisis in California Hits Latinos Hardest

1 in 3 uninsured, as safety net crumbles

By Tenoch Flores

On June 22, California legislators will face a momentous decision. On that day, the Assembly Health Committee will decide whether to advance —or set back— the drive to provide health care to every Californian.

1 in 5 Californians do not have health insurance, one of the highest rates in the nation. 1 in 3 Latinos in California does not have health insurance, the highest rate of any group in California. People who are uninsured have a 25% higher mortality rate, according to a report issued earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine, accounting for 18,000 unnecessary, premature deaths every year.

In addition, families without insurance often face financial catastrophe: 1 of every 2 bankruptcies is a result of medical bills that families can’t afford to pay.

SB 921, a bill by Senator Sheila Kuehl, is facing resistance in the Health Committee, but thousands of people across the state are weighing in now to tell legislators that fundamental reform is necessary. SB 921 creates a single, universal health insurance system, publicly administered and funded through premiums paid by employers and employees.

Our current system is wasteful and inefficient: we spend 25-30% of every health care dollar on administrative costs (including profit, marketing, filing and administering complicated insurance claims, etc.). A single-payer system would reduce those costs to 5%, saving $14 billion. In addition, Californians would be able to negotiate as a single group for better drug prices, saving an additional $4 billion. Finally, by treating people with preventive and primary care, instead of more expensive emergency care that is the only option currently available to many uninsured people, we could save another $3 billion. These savings are more than enough to provide comprehensive, free medical coverage to every Californian, regardless of ability to pay, regardless of employment status, and regardless of immigration status.

Please join the growing movement to provide health care to all Californians. We expect this battle to take more than one year, but we can’t wait any longer to start the fight for this basic human right. Health care for all is something we owe to ourselves.

Go to http://www.sb921campaign.org to find out more. Take action through the advertisement on this web site! Send a free fax to your legislator.

Tenoch Flores is the Media Relations Manager for the ACLU of Southern California.

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