Sadly, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to veto Bill 840, thus denying medical care for seven million state residents
Sacramento (1 September 2006) - California legislators are poised to vote for a Canadian-style health-care system by passing Bill 840, a measure that would outlaw private health care throughout the state.
The legislation was approved earlier by members of the state assembly and was endorsed Thursday by the state senate. If enacted, the bill would provide free medical, dental, vision and prescription drug coverage for all California residents by 2009 through a state-run agency.
The only problem is that California's Republican governor, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is expected to veto the measure, thus stopping it in its tracks. He has the power to do so under the state's constitution.
No one knows exactly how much Californians spend on health care, but it's somewhere between $150 billion and $200 billion a year. Medical care has become the state's largest single industry, accounting for roughly 10% of the state's massive economy.
Yet despite its wealth (which Schwarzenegger symbolizes) an estimated seven million California residents (out of a population of 37 million) have no health care coverage at all. Across the country some 50 million Americans (one out of six) lack coverage of any kind and many more live without adequate coverage.
Inspired by Canada
The inspiration for Bill 840 from the beginning has been Canada's national medicare system, which provides universal basic medical care for all at far less cost than private alternatives.
"We've learned from the Canadian system and integrated it into a plan specifically for California," says Sara Rogers, a spokesperson for Senator Sheila Kuehl, the sponsor of the bill.
"A universal health-care plan is the only way California can solve its health-care problems.... Studies by the World Health Organization show that Canada spends about half of what we do on health care, but the overall health outcomes are comparable."
Support for universal medical care has been growing in many areas of the United States, despite fierce opposition from the massive, for-profit, private medical care industry and its political supporters, including Schwarzenegger.
San Francisco, which has long had a reputation as one of the most progressive cities in the country, has gone ahead with its own version of universal care. Earlier this month, Mayor Gavin Newsom signed a law that would make the city the first in the U.S. to offer health care to its 82,000 uninsured residents.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has been fighting for many years in Canada to defend and preserve Canada's public medicare system, which is also under attack from private, for-profit health care providers and right-wing Canadian politicians. NUPGE