Campaign gathers signatures to get health care for all in Florida
These are true stories from our alleged health care 'system,' the least effective per dollar spent in the world.* The U.S. is the one country among industrialized nations which does not guarantee health care to all its citizens.
Floridians for Health Security is organizing to change this in Florida. They are circulating a petition to create a program that would insure every woman, man and child in Florida for all their healthcare needs. It is called a "Single-payer" health care program. "We believe Floridians want to restore their health care system and as individuals be able to get care based on their need" says Irving Vinger, chairperson of Floridians for Health Security.
Floridians for Health Security has collected 21,000 signatures which have been filed and certified with elections offices, and 9,000 more signed petitions are awaiting certification. The campaign has to collect 13,000 more signatures of registered voters on the petition to get a reading from the Florida Supreme Court review of the language. After that, a total of 435,000 signatures need to be collected to get the measure on the 2000 ballot. (For more info, check out www.ffhs.org.)
Single-payer, which is the health system used in Canada since the '60's, means that instead of many insurance companies each deciding if they're going to cover us and how much they will charge us, everyone pays a small amount into a statewide fund, and everyone is provided any care they need by the doctors that they choose. The doctors are paid from the statewide pool of money. In effect, it works like an insurance company--pooling the risks--but it covers everyone and doesn't take a profit off the top, or spend a lot of administrative effort denying us care. "There will be no more denials of care for pre-existing conditions, no more paperwork to determine eligibility, no more pre-authorization requirements for hospitalization or procedures, no more arbitrary early discharges from hospital before you are able, and no more arbitrary early decisions by faceless private and public bureaucrats made about your health care."
Can we afford it? It would be cheaper immediately because around 10% of our current costs that go to insurance company profits and paper shuffling would be held down to a 1% administrative budget by the legislation, an immediate saving of 4 billion dollars. Then, because everyone can go to a doctor, there will be less waiting until a medical problem gets to a crisis stage and we end up in the very expensive emergency room or critical care situation. Additionally, money will be freed up for emphasis on disease prevention and primary care. The legislation will limit the total costs to what Floridians are spending now for their health care, adjusted upward only for population growth.
What will it cost an individual? Everyone earning in excess of 250 % of the federal poverty level and not on Medicare will pay an affordable premium to the Florida Universal Health Access Plan. Those who earn between 100% (or less) and 250% of the federal poverty level will pay on a sliding scale. Employed residents will have their premiums collected at their workplace. There is nothing in this plan that would prohibit employers from paying for their employees or sharing the cost. It is estimated that overhead costs for providers will be reduced by 15% since all their bills go to one place.
What would I get for the money? Full inpatient and outpatient health care benefits; full mental health benefits; full long term home and institutional care benefits; prescription drug coverage; vision and some dental benefits. All deductibles and copayments are eliminated. You won't have to deal with medical bills and reimbursements, or trying to prove you needed the care you got.
Since November 1989, a coalition of individuals and organizations known as the Florida Health Care Campaign has worked through the legislative process to pass a bill to implement the Florida Universal Health Access Plan. This bill was first filed by Rep. Elaine Gordon of North Miami Beach and Sen. Eleanor Weinstock of West Palm Beach and in 1992, as HB 1 and SB 92, it had majority support from both Republicans and Democrats, passed with strong majorities in all the substantive committees and yet never was allowed to come up for a vote by either the full house or senate. Floridians for Health Security states, "Health care reform through the legislatures, since, at the State or Federal levels, has been an abject failure," says Vinger. "Our elected officials seem unable to act on our behalf for whatever reasons. The constitutional amendment process was established for exactly this purpose. When the elected body is unable to represent the people, the people can act legally on their own initiative."
"However," Vinger adds, "No one should consider changing our constitution lightly or frivolously. Amending the Florida Bill of Rights, Article 1 of the Florida Constitution, as is proposed, should be an action taken by the people because they have a strong belief that this is something that all persons have a complete right to have. Let us consider our access to health care. Should it continue to be a commodity that is totally dependent on each person's ability to pay? Is health care like a pair of shoes or a mustang or a ticket to a sporting event or to the theater? Should we sacrifice all but the rich because the others can't pay for a coronary bypass or kidney dialysis? No, access to health care is a right that all persons should have to choose to use or not!"
If you want to help collect signatures, especially at polling places during the upcoming elections on November 3, call Gainesville Women's Liberation at (352) 378-5655 in Gainesville. Floridians for Health Security can be reached at (305) 253-9659 (Miami).
*Many of the stories listed above are from testimony at the program "Health Care for People, Not for Profit" held May 31, 1998 in Gainesville to celebrate the work and mission of the Gainesville Women's Health Center. The event was cosponsored by Gainesville Women's Liberation, UF/SFCC Campus NOW, and Gainesville Area National Organization for Women.
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