Dear Senator Campbell:

I am writing in response to your letter explaining why you oppose SB840, the California Health Insurance Reliability Act. I hope you have a chance during your campaign for Congress to read this, and I hope you reconsider your stand when the funding bill gets voted on; in any case I will publish this elsewhere as it is important to correct all misconceptions about the bill. Here are your stated reasons for your opposition: (emphasis mine)

"…as California faces an economic crisis, we need to approach this issue carefully before we create a system that would cost taxpayers billions to maintain. This bill creates an open-ended entitlement to healthcare that distances consumers even more from the financial consequences of their own decisions while putting government planners in charge of deciding who gets what, where and when."

First of all, it's incredibly misleading to just say that SB840 would "cost taxpayers billions to maintain." Short answer: Independent studies have shown that it will SAVE us 8 billion a year-THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT. Do you have any idea how wasteful the current non-system is? To say that it will cost us billions is to ignore how much we're already spending on health services-an average of $6400 a year per person, 15% of our economy-far higher than any other nation while getting poorer results than most. Do you know California's estimated economic losses from lack of health insurance are about 100 billion a year?

I could continue all day with facts like these, but the point is, far from costing us taxpayers money, SB840, while insuring all Californians and saving thousands of lives, will SAVE money for almost everyone (except for the health insurance industry which should be decimated, and irresponsible corporations like Walmart who don't provide benefits to their employees.) I would hope that as our senator you would represent the vast majority of individuals and businesses in your district who would benefit from this bill, rather than bad actors like Aetna and Walmart.

Next, "entitlement." I realize that is an epithet to Republicans, suggesting the mythical welfare queen in her Cadillac. But we are hardworking, taxpaying citizens of the wealthiest nation in history-why should we NOT be entitled to healthcare? National security, police and fire protection, good roads and schools, clean air and water-these are all entitlements; surely our health is at least as important as these.

And it's also misleading to say that "government planners" (another Republican epithet) will decide "who gets what, where and when." To start with, who decides all that now? The unaccountable, anonymous heads of health insurance companies, duty-bound to constantly scheme how to maximize their profits. Maybe as a car salesman you never had to deal with an HMO or PPO, but they are notoriously restrictive on what we can get done and where, and they change their rules endlessly and arbitrarily.

Furthermore, it seems perhaps you didn't have a chance to read SB840 before you voted against it (it is long and still in progress) but its framers have made a great effort to make the "government planners" as democratically accountable as possible. Among other things, the health commissioner is elected for a limited term, there will be an elected consumer advocate, the Office of Planning will be broken up into ten regions to plan for our health needs on a LOCAL basis, and there will be a public advisory board to keep everything responsive. That's representative democracy. If you compare this to how much control we have over, say, the CEO of Humana, the choice is a no-brainer.

Not only that, even these "planners" won't be determining "who gets what, where and when." Under SB840, all of us will get to choose our own doctors and hospitals; thus if there is too long a wait at one we can go to another. In short, your statement "government planners [will decide] who gets what, where and when" must be corrected to "elected commissioners and local boards - rather than corporate CEO's - will NOT tell us who gets what, where and when." Now that's quite a correction.

Finally, it's hard for me to respond in a civil way to your comment that the bill "distances consumers from the financial consequences of their decisions." Is this what they call compassionate conservatism? Rather than tell two or three heartbreaking stories of hardworking families driven to bankruptcy or death through no fault of their own, and risk giving the impression that there aren't thousands more such stories, I'll just give you three plain FACTS:

I bet a lot of the people described above voted for you. I wonder how they (or the voters of the 68th) would feel if they knew you consider their low-paying jobs and their illnesses to be "decisions" they made for which they should be punished with "consequences." Did you think about what you were writing, and if so, how can you sleep?

Okay, I'll wrap up. I realize it's counterintuitive to expect a conservative Republican to support a bill like this, and it would be courageous of you to be the first of your colleagues to do so. But the facts are undeniable: The health insurance robber barons are ruining our economy and killing us, and only a well-made, democratically accountable government agency such as we are proposing can cure the crisis.

It was the great Republican president Teddy Roosevelt who broke up the monopolies a century ago. I hope that some Republicans like you will be brave enough to join with us to do the same now that it's once again a matter of life and death.


Vern Nelson, HCA-OC