On Wednesday, August 8 th , Single-Payer healthcare activists took their fight to the doors of the enemy, With speech, music, theater, and even a Trojan Horse, they carried their message "Healthcare Yes! Insurance Companies, No!" to the door of Blue Shield,
one of the largest health insurers in the State.
August 8 was San Francisco's day in the OneCareNow campaign to have 365 events in California over a year for single-payer healthcare. San Francisco health activists decided to go on the offensive by attacking the health insurance companies.
“Blue Shield claims it wants to reform California Healthcare,” said Michael Lyon, of the SF Gray Panthers, “but their ‘reform' is to force everyone to buy private insurance that people can't really afford, and that doesn't kick in until people spend thousands in deductibles. It uses tax money to indirectly subsidize private insurance by paying the poorest of the poor money to (barely) help them buy private health insurance.”
“Private insurance has no place in healthcare at all,” said Don Bechler of the California Universal Healthcare Organizing Project. “Their object is to make money by avoiding people who need healthcare. We're not trying to reform health insurance; we plan to make it disappear. Sheila Kuehl's SB 840 is the only health plan that does away with insurance companies.”
Single Payer sets up a state agency to pool all money for healthcare, like Medicare and Medi-Cal, plus modest employer and employee contributions, and use this money to pay the same doctors, clinics, and hospitals that we use today. The savings from eliminating insurance company administrative costs and profits, plus the savings to doctors and hospitals that would only need to bill a single state agency, could supply comprehensive, minimal-cost healthcare to every person in California.
Five years ago, Blue Shield pushed a plan to force everyone to buy private health insurance, which became the basis of Governor Schwarzeneger's current pan for phony healthcare reform.
Cynthia Campbell, spoke at the demonstration. Cynthia, a nurse for thirty years, was refused renewal of her insurance by Blue Shield after they discovered she has two stage IV cancers. Cynthia said “I always paid into the insurance programs. I rarely used the policies. Now that I do need to use them, there is no insurance plan available to me. I think the tragedy of my situation is that the health care mess is totally preventable. It's a product of greed. … Now we've got this middleman mentality, that you've got to get profits to corporations that own the insurance companies.”
As a SF Chronicle article on Cynthia explains
"her coverage is what's known as a short-term or temporary policy -- a type of low-cost insurance that has grown in popularity in recent years. Many customers are people who have lost their job-based group benefits and can't afford to buy long-term individual coverage."
The state has a high-risk program for people who have serious health conditions and are unable to obtain coverage. But this program -- the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program -- limits medical benefits to $75,000 a year, the nation's lowest among state high-risk programs. "One of my hospitalizations would more than likely exceed that," Campbell said."
Nan Brasmer, of the California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) said “Medicare is under attack and in danger of privatization, which would lead to bankruptcy. The best way to preserve Medicare for seniors and disabled is to improve it, and extend it to everyone, regardless of age, health, income, or documentation. SB 840 does this.”