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SIX MILLIONS CALIFORNIANS ARE WITHOUT HEALTH CARE INSURANCE

Alviso Health Foundation will provide health Screening

September, 16, 1992

By Yolanda Reynolds

La Oferta Newspaper.

Access to health care for most people in the United States is either limited or too expensive or both. A number of proposals have been made to resolve this problem, both nationally and, within the State of California. Health care reform, after the general state of economy is one of the most hotly discussed issues during this election year.

What has worried many in the United States is that the costs of health care have soared, while fewer and fewer Americans have access to that care.

According to Consumer Reports, a publication produced by a respected consumer oriented organization, health care costs are the highest by far in the United States, can pared to other countries such as Canada, Germany, Japan or the United Kingdom.

Consumer Reports says that one of the major reasons for high health costs in the United States is that, “we throw away at least $200 billion on over priced, useless, even harmful treatments, and at a bloated bureaucracy.” They add that this ($200 billion) “is enough to extend high-quality medical care to every American now uninsured.

They say that their research data indicates that over use of medical services amounts to approximately $130 billion a year and that an additional $70 million is spent because of “administrative inefficiency.” Consumer Reports says that one solution to the $70 billion loss of administrative costs would be to have a “single payer system” in which, they say, “all citizens receive health care from private doctors and hospitals that are paid by a single insurance entity.” They add that the “savings would come from insurance-company overhead and hospital and administrative costs.”

Another problem is “outright fraud,” which according to the Government Accounting Office reports, is estimated to costs up to 10% of the health care budget. Such fraud includes; doctors ordering unnecessary tests and procedures, billing for services not rendered, falsifying reimbursement codes to collect “more than the usual payment and medical devices. “This additional 10% of costs for fraud is not even included in the estimated $200 billion waste of money for “health care.”

According to “Health Access,” a California consumer advocacy group, the Bush, Wilson and California Medical Association health care proposals and accompanying proposed legislation all seek to “(keep) the existing system intact.” Health Access explains that these proposals promote the idea that government should stay out of the “big business,” of which the health care industry is a member – it makes un 13% of the nation’s Gross National Product. President Bush’s proposal offers the usual solutions to this problem, tax credits, tax deductions, private insurance and a “change in how Medicaid is financed.”

That health care is big business is apparent from the amount of money (560 million annually) that such special interests as the medical, pharmaceutical and insurance industry PAC’s contributed to Congressional Candidates.

According to Common Cause (which has been urging a move for campaign reform), in 1980 alone, the AMA (American Medical Association) contributed more than $11.9 million to congressional campaigns with an additional $3 million on behalf of “certain candidates.” Also, in 1980 politicians received another $19 million in contributions from Insurance PACs (many of which are affiliated with the larger Medical PACs).

The California Medical Association was able to collect enough signatures to get their proposal on the ballot. That proposal requires that all employers, whose employees work more than 17.5 hours per week, pay at least 75% of the cost of health insurance for employees and their dependents.

Health Access, a broadly-based organization whose concern is health care, has as its objectives; “Universal Coverage, Comprehensive Benefits, Progressive Financing, Economic Efficiency, Publicly Guided Allocation of Health Resources and Accountability to Consumers. It normally does not take a political stand on legislation but is strongly opposed to the AMA Proposition that will voted on this November.

Health Access finds major problems with the AMA proposition, some of which are: it does not assure health care for every single uninsured Californian, it does not contain costs, it is “not affordable” because it requires partial payment of premiums by people who are unable to pay them and requires “unrealistic” co-payments for services from the working poor, limits hospital stays for 45 days, outpatient visits are limited to 20 per year, and it has a lifetime cap of $500,000.

The health care problem in the United States is grave – 37 million Americans have no health insurance at all. People without insurance enter the hospital sicker, receive fewer diagnostic tests and are 3 times more likely to die in the hospital than those with health care coverage.

In California, 6 million people have no health insurance. Even with so many lacking access to health care, Health Access points out that California spends $70 billion or 12% of the gross state product on health care. They add that if there are no changes in the way health care is provided, by the year 2,000 health care will amount to 15% of the Gross State Product.

They also point out that more money is spent, per capital, on physician services in California than in any other state in the Union and that, if California provided health care as efficiently as Canada, California could cover everyone, provide long term care, and have equal or better outcomes, while spending from 25% to 35% less.

Other health care problems that they describe are that: “millions of Californians get too much medicine thus risking their lives, wide discrepancies in health care costs exists even in affluent areas and prenatal care in California is grossly inadequate. California ranks 36th out of the 50 United States in prenatal care.

Finally, Health Access contends that, contrary to claims of government inefficiency, administrative health care costs are less for government run facilities (3% – 5%) than for private hospitals whose administrative costs tend to account for 10% to 35% of the costs of the health care expenses.

The Board of Supervisor of Santa Clara County are struggling to keep the doors open at the major health care facility. Valley Medical Center, which provides health care to people who do not have private health insurance. The problem is grave and the threat to human life is real.

On September 19, the Family Health Foundation of Alviso is holding a free health fair which includes education on living in a smoke free environment as well as free health screening fa women, families and children. It will be held from 10 am. to 3 p.m.at Sheppard and Painter Middle schools in the McKee White Rd. area. There will be bilingual Vietnamese and Spanish speaking health professionals there. The Foundation expects to serve many hundreds of companied by 15 other health care providers in order to serve the large number of people that they expect.

The Foundation is also providing many activities for the people that day besides information on health care and the free health screening for blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol level as well as vision testing and the providing of weight and height information. There will be free food, music, games, a poster contest and sports activities.

Sheppard School is located at 480 Rough and Ready Rd. San Jose. For more information, you may contact the Family Health Foundation of Alviso at 252-7944, extension 235. © La Oferta Newspaper.

 

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