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SB 840 (Kuehl), California Health Insurance Reliability Act (CHIRA)
Comprehensive Universal Health Care Coverage

March 23, 2005

The League of Women Voters of California strongly supports Senator Sheila Kuehl's SB 840, the California Health Insurance Reliability Act (CHIRA). SB 840 will provide fiscally sound, affordable health insurance to all Californians, provide Californians the right to choose their own physician, and control health cost inflation. In essence, the bill is the same as Kuehl's SB 921 of 2003-04, but with the addition of much more detail.

SB 840 is scheduled for its first committee hearing on April 6 in the Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance (BF&I) Committee. This gives us only ten business days to lobby the committee to support SB 840. Failure to pass this committee would mean the end for single payer reform in this legislative cycle.

ACTION NEEDED: If your state senator is a member of the Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee, please immediately contact him or her to express your support. (Find your State Senator and Assemblymember.

Members of the Senate BF&I Committee are Jackie Speier (chair), Dave Cox (vice chair), Jeff Denham, Liz Figueroa, Dennis Hollingsworth, Alan Lowenthal, Michael Machado, Abel Maldonado, Kevin Murray, Deborah Ortiz, and Jack Scott. Contact information is listed below.

LEAGUE POSITION: The LWVUS Health Care position promotes a health care system for the United States that provides access to a basic level of quality care for all U.S. residents and controls health care costs.

BACKGROUND: More than six million California residents, as many as 80 percent of whom are employed, have gone without health insurance in recent years. Cost cutting measures by providers to assure profitability have reduced quality of care, sometimes to tragic proportion. Insurance premiums are now increasing at double digit rates and are expected to continue to rise. The system is in worse condition than 10 years ago because of excess administrative costs, overpriced pharmaceuticals, use of emergency rooms for non-emergency care and uncontrolled capital costs. And now, the situation is further compounded by the state's budget woes.

The LWVC strongly supported SB 480 of 1999, a bill which after four years came to fruition as California's landmark Health Care Options Project. The HCOP analyzed nine options for expanding health coverage in terms of how many people would be covered, how much each reform would cost, and how each reform could improve the quality of health care. Only the three single-payer systems were found to provide universal coverage and operate at net savings over the status quo.

The League supported SB 921 (Kuehl) during the 2003-2004 legislative session. This bill would have provided health care coverage to all Californians through a publicly financed single payer health care system. A recent analysis of the bill by the Virginia-based Lewin Group, which also did the HCOP analyses, showed SB 840 would provide even greater savings to Californians than the previously studied single payer models. The Lewin Group report is available at www.healthcareforall.org.


  • SB 840 provides for universal coverage and comprehensive benefits while making very significant state savings in health care spending. In the short run, it adds no new spending, and in the long run it controls the growth in health care spending.
  • SB 840 provides for reliable coverage and security for every California resident. Eligibility is based on residency, not employment or income. No one will ever lose coverage because of unaffordable insurance premiums, changing or losing a job, going to or graduating from college, or pre-existing conditions.
  • SB 840 provides for affordable health care. Health benefits will be paid for by federal, state and county monies currently being spent on the health care system and affordable insurance premiums that replace all premiums, deductibles, out-of pocket payments, and co-payments now paid by employers and consumers.
    • System savings resulting from use of the state's purchasing power to buy pharmaceuticals and medical equipment at discounted rates, administrative simplification, and making primary care and preventive care available for everyone will dramatically increase the funds that can be spent on providing universal coverage. According to the Lewin Group study, even after care is made available to California's uninsured and underinsured, the net state savings will be about $8 billion in the first year.

  • SB 840 provides for efficient delivery of health care. Waste will be eliminated by consolidating the functions of many insurance companies into one comprehensive insurance plan saving the state and consumers billions of dollars each year. A recent Boston University study shows half of every dollar spent on health care is squandered on clinical and administrative waste, insurance company profits and over-priced pharmaceuticals. The Lewin Group report estimates that California will save more than $20 billion in reduced administrative costs in the first year alone.
  • SB 840 provides for high quality health care. Consumers will have total freedom to choose their personal primary care provider. Health care providers and facilities will receive fair reimbursement for all covered services they provide.
  • SB 840 provides for generous health care benefits based on all care prescribed by a health care provider that meets accepted standards of care and practice. The benefit package is broader than that of many current health plans and includes hospital, medical, surgical, and mental health; dental and vision care; prescription drugs and medical equipment; diagnostic testing; emergency care; health education and translation services; hospice care; and more.
  • SB 840 will stabilize the growth in health care spending by linking spending increases to growth in state gross domestic product and population, employment rates, and other relevant demographic indicators. It includes cost controls and an emphasis on preventative and primary care.


Address letters to:

The Honorable (full name of senator)
California State Senate
P.O. Box 942848
Sacramento, CA 94248-0001

Use the salutation of: Dear Senator (last name of senator)

Mail or Fax letters to the Sacramento office and to the district office if you have a strong relationship with staff there.


SD (Senate District) 8: Jackie Speier, Chair 916-445-0503, Fax 916-327-2186; District: 650-340-8840, 415-557-7857

SD 1 Dave Cox, Vice Chair 916-445-5788, Fax 324-2680; District: 916-783-8232, 209-223-9140, 916-327-9034

SD 12 Jeff Denham, 916-445-1392, Fax 916-445-0773; District: 209-577-6592, 831-769-8040, 209-726-5495

SD 10 Liz Figueroa, 916-445-6671, Fax 916-327-2433; District: 510-413-5960

SD 36 Dennis Hollingsworth, 916-445-9781, Fax 916-445-9008; District: 951-676-1020, 619-596-3136

SD 27 Alan Lowenthal, coauthor of SB 840, 916-445-6447, Fax 327-9113; District: 562-495-4766, 562-529-6659

SD 5 Mike Machado, 916-445-2407, Fax 916-323-2304; District: 209-948-7930, 916-323-4306, 707-454-3808

SD 15 Abel Maldonado, 916-445-5843, Fax 916-445-8081; District 408-277-9461, 805-549-3784

SD 26 Kevin Murray, 916-445-8800, Fax 916-445-8899; District: 310-641-4391, 213-748-8542

SD 6 Deborah Ortiz, coauthor of SB 840, 916-445-7807, Fax 916-323-2263; District: 916-961-1482, 916-324-4937

SD 21 Jack Scott, 916-445-5976, Fax 916-324-7543; District: 626-683-0282.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please contact LWVC at lwvc@lwvc.org.


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