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August 22, 2007

Health care for all should be the goal in California

Whenever the discussion heats up about whether California should be the first state in the nation to adopt a single-payer health care system - known among its opponents as "evil socialized medicine" - the first thing we hear is how satisfied millions of Americans are with their current health care. The knee-jerk rationale goes: Why would we want to risk the privileges of the most sophisticated health care in the world?

Let's set aside the fact that in 2000 when the World Health Organization surveyed the health systems in 191 countries, the United States ranked a relatively pathetic No. 37. (In many areas, we rank behind countries such as Canada and England that have government-run health care.)

Lots of double talk

If you really think your health insurance is so hot, let me ask you this. When is the last time you had to use it for anything other than a routine doctor's visit? If you think that dealing with a state-run health care system would be a nightmare bureaucracy, have you tried navigating the maze of double talk at your health insurance company lately?

The odds are that the health insurance you think you have has changed a lot in the past few years since costs have continued to skyrocket and employers have not been able to continue to foot the bill. In the five years since I've been writing about the health care mess, I've heard horror stories from people who have been denied care by their health

insurance carriers
that are as bad as the stories from people who don't have insurance at all.

The latest such story to grab the spotlight is the plight of Cynthia Campbell, a nurse in San Francisco who is fighting two kinds of cancer. She had a short-term health insurance policy with Blue Shield, which she purchased when she had left one job and was a few weeks away from starting another. During that time, she was diagnosed with cancer, and she fell into "pre-existing condition" hell.

She could not renew her policy, even though she had always had insurance and never missed a premium payment in 30 years. "What you find is that once you actually get sick, no insurance carrier wants to touch you," Cynthia told me. "They do everything they can to get rid of you."

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Posted by healthinsurance at August 22, 2007 08:09 PM