California death spiral (Healthcare reform needed more than ever)

One of the saddest news pieces I have read in a very long time was about 911 emergency services in Tracy (a commuter’s distance from San Francisco). The citizens of Tracy must pay a fee for 911 service. Their choice: $48/year or $300/call. Right. $300/call. And, honestly, not every household can afford $48/year. This system means people will be forced to think about whether to call 911. Someone having a stroke or a heart attack? Can you afford the call or should you try to get the suffering person to the hospital yourself? Do you hear your neighbor being physically abused? Will you call 911 if the response will be charged to you? Carry on with the possibilities. Nothing good comes from the fee structure, except that Tracy will be able to afford to provide the services (which, we acknowledge without hesitation, is not only good but essential for public safety and welfare). This is truly an indicator of California in a death spiral.

But I digress slightly. Paul Krugman had California on his mind last week in the wake of all the hubbub about the health insurance premium increases for privately purchased insurance coverage. Mr. Krugman devoted his February 16 column to what he termed the California Death Spiral. Privately purchased health insurance is a complete, predictable disaster: Premiums get higher so healthy people decide to chance going without coverage which makes the “pool” of insured persons more highly populated with the people who really need and use insurance coverage, which causes premiums to increase which forces more of the less terribly ill people out of that “pool.” Etc. We know this spiral. And we are living it.

Who knows if Washington will manage healthcare reform that does anything meaningful. Every good wish to them. In the interim, in California, the legislature may do something. Believe it or not, the California Universal Healthcare Act, SB810, is showing signs of life! Let’s remind ourselves of what a good idea this is, and start talking local progress that benefits California. Let’s do our part to arrest the death spiral. LLII.

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