Monday, August 31, 2009

Sen. Feinstein: Time to Lead on Health Reform!

Sen. Feinstein has issued, at long last, a thoughtful statement on health reform. There is much to applaud, but there is too much unresolved. She makes the case that this is a vital issue for our state. We should demand clearer leadership on her part.

She rightly notes that California stands to benefit from reducing our high percentage of uninsured, and must protect our extensive system of public hospitals and safety net clinics. She recognizes that most Californians want relief both from the health insurance
industry’s exorbitant premiums and from its unfair practices. She demands that private insurance companies limit spending on administration and profits to no more than ten percent of revenues – a critical issue, and a level even better than the House’s bill. She supports offering the option of a public insurance plan.

However, while criticizing current proposals for not going far enough to assure that health care will be affordable, she opposes the necessary subsidies on abstract grounds of deficit control. She takes the opportunity for an unjustified swipe at entitlements generally, reviving the call for a commission to review not only Medicare, which is threatened by runaway costs in the private system that it cannot control, but also Social Security, a perfectly solvent system that requires well known tweaks to survive with no difficulty.

Finally, she bows to the possibility that a nonprofit coop could take the place of a public plan, in providing an effective and competitive counterpoint to private insurance. This concept has no legs, as everyone knows but the small-state senators whose judgment she questions.

Sen. Feinstein does not serve on the Senate Finance Committee, which has yet to offer a bill. But the people of our state desperately need reform, and we’ve fought for it actively. We have twice passed single payer legislation, the gold standard for effective reform. It is time for Sen. Feinstein to join the majority of the state’s Congressional delegation in unequivocal support for a bill that includes a meaningful public plan option, available to everyone, and that finally makes health care affordable. She’s halfway there. She should complete her deliberations by the time the Senate reconvenes next week.

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