NCHC | News – Media Statements

NCHC Writer
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Media Statements


  • I am glad to be here today, representing the 1.2 million working families and retirees in California who belong to CalPERS.
  • Because it is time — more than time — to sound the alarm bell about the state of health care in this country and the lack of aggressive action by Washington.
  • Each of us here is seriously troubled by the state of affairs.
  • Congress and the President have not stepped up to the challenge of fixing our dysfunctional health care system. It needs to be our nation’s top priority.
  • I won’t mince words.
  • Without ACTION from Washington soon, you are going to see a stronger than ever RE-ACTION from America’s working families and retirees – and the consequences of inaction will be catastrophic.
  • The fact that so many employers, labor organizations and civic and religious groups have joined the National Coalition on Health Care should tell you something.
  • America’s health care system is deathly ill.
  • It is on life support.
  • We can’t revive it from our homes, our offices, or from our statehouses.
  • Believe me, we have tried.
  • Unless Congress enacts new public policy that guides health care, we face a real doomsday scenario – a worsening economy, an inefficient delivery system, and tragedies in the lives of American families – for who the price and quality of health care will be beyond their means.

On a Macro Level, here is where we stand:

  • In 1970, I’m told, health spending totaled $73.1 billion — $348 a person, or 7 cents on every dollar.
  • By the year 2000, that amount rose to 13.3 cents on the dollar.
  • The latest figures available, for 2001, show we are spending $1.4 trillion dollars – or 15.1% of the gross domestic product of the U.S.
  • I have seen figures that say this translates into an economic output value of $10 trillion – or 14 cents of every dollar.
  • And national expenditures are expected to reach $3.1 trillion by the year 2012 – growing 7.3% every year.

This high cost of health care has caused the number of uninsured Americans to grow.

  • Today, 80 million Americans have no health insurance or are underinsured.
  • Every year, another 1 million Americans are added to the ranks of the uninsured – and these are middle-class families.
  • Yet, when they show up in hospitals for treatment, someone has to pay the bills. The cost of health care for these folks are being borne by employer sponsored plans.
  • In California, employers are clearly struggling with providing health care benefits.
  • Our CalPERS employers – state and local governments and the taxpayers – can’t afford it, either.
  • Already faced with terrible budget deficits, our employer partners are scrambling as I speak to determine whether they can afford to continue to be in the CalPERS program.
  • Contributing to this is the underlying fundamental problems of health care.
  • Consider the rising costs of hospital care in California. Hospital costs are scandalous in some parts of California.
  • Something is wrong with the system when heart bypass surgery in an affordable city such as Sacramento costs $110,000 and the same surgery costs in one of the nation’s most expensive cities, San Francisco is less — $73,000 for the same surgery. The cost of kidney stone surgery is two times the price in Sacramento than it is in San Francisco.
  • Perhaps the most important warning I bring here to say is what I believe to be the human toll on Washington’s failure to exert leadership.
  • Think of the single mom who works as a clerk typist, making $2400 a month. Three years ago, she paid $27 out of pocket for her health insurance, and her employer, the state of California, contributed the rest – $452 a month.
  • This year, she is paying $85 a month more, her share of the premium increase.
  • Next year, if our cash-strapped state fails to pick up any additional increase, her out of pocket could be as much as $220 a month – a 158% increase in a single year. She’ll be covering 100% of the increases in premiums predicted
  • What would you do? Would you keep insurance for yourself and drop it for your spouse or your kids? Would you forgo it all together and take your chances of not getting sick?
  • What’s wrong with this picture?
  • CalPERS has wrung out of the managed care model as much as it could in the mid 1990s. Today, no one, including CalPERS — with all of our smarts, our size, and our strength — can do enough to make a dent in the problem.
  • We need national leadership, and need it right now.

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