Of pirates and snowboarders…

I testified today at the Senate Health Committee’s hearing, chaired by health care champion Senator Sheila Kuehl, on Governor Schwarzenegger’s health proposal. My colleague Hanh will post a more full run-down of the discussion, but here’s my first take:

I was impressed that the Senators zeroed in on the right questions about health reform: What is affordable for consumers? Who ultimately bears the risk?

The legislators seemed to get the point of health reform is to provide a benefit, not a burden, to individual patients and families. If voters continue to remind them and hold them accountable, the prospects of positive reforms this year are good.

The two most vivid images invoked by the Senators was of insurers as pirates, and of 23-year old surfboarders as slackers.

My point in testimony was that as we define the problem, that leads to different solutions. And I think the pirate insurers are a much bigger problem than snowboarders.

SNOWBOARDERS: As I have said before, the vast majority of Californians desperately want coverage. Even young people: see my earlier post, in defense of the young:

PIRATES: So the Governor’s plan is a good start when it attempts to remove barriers Californians face to coverage through employers, public programs, or the private individual market. It’s good to place some clear basic rules of the game for the insurers that actively work to avoid covering people who might actually need care.

You can’t simply require people to buy coverage all alone as individuals without consideration for ability to pay, a defined and meaningful benefit, the power of group purchasing, or shared risk with an employers or a public program. But it seems that some key legislators, at least, understand those questions.

More later.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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