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Sacramento Business Journal

Universal healthcare being pushed by an unexpected coalition

by Kathy Robertson / Staff Writer
Oct 19, 2001

An unlikely coalition of doctors, nurses, consumer advocates and businesspeople kick off an initiative Monday to get stakeholders in the healthcare industry serious about pursuing universal healthcare.

The first step is a voluntary online survey that asks employers how well they think the healthcare system works now. The survey can be accessed at the Web site www.businesshealthsurvey.org. It asks questions ranging from the size if the business and whether insurance is offered, to feelings about the current healthcare system and support for universal coverage, where everyone is guaranteed access to healthcare.

Organizers will use the results to begin a discussion about overhauling and integrating public and private healthcare into a system of universal coverage. They'll hold regional town hall meetings across the state to collect more opinions.

The initiative is a collaboration by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, the California Nurses Association, the California Medical Association and the American Small Business Alliance.

"Getting the CMA and CNA to work with us on anything gives the group unique powers," said Jamie Court, executive director of the foundation. "And we think the public health scare over anthrax makes this a good time to do it."

Doctors have supported universal healthcare for years. The California Medical Association backed an employer sponsored state healthcare initiative that voters rejected in 1992.

"We have long supported universal healthcare coverage and welcome the business community in joining the debate," CMA vice president Steve Thompson said in a prepared statement.

With healthcare costs rising, Court and others in the coalition are pushing a public utility-type model for healthcare that would relieve employers of the burden of administering coverage and level the paying field in terms of costs.

"Premiums are going up in the double digits," Court said. "Unless they are masochistic, I'd think employers would be willing to look at it."