New Report Highlights How Thousands of Californians View Current Health Care Reform Proposals

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 General News
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SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 27 A new report summarizes howCalifornians across the state view the major health care reform proposalsbeing debated by state lawmakers in the final weeks of the legislativesession. From employer mandates to single payer coverage, the report outlineswhat conditions must be met in order for the public to support specificproposed reforms. The report is based on the findings of CaliforniaSpeaks -- a3,500 person statewide conversation that took place simultaneously acrosseight California cities on August 11.

The final report, issued today, showed that Californians want major healthcare reform passed this year. Among the findings, 82% of the participantsbelieve the system requires major change, 86% said they believe that it isessential or important for reform to pass this year, and 84% said they were atleast somewhat willing to share responsibility to help pay for reform.

The report's findings give lawmakers a detailed picture of howCalifornians see the critical elements within the reform packages, and offerlawmakers insight into the public's perspective on health reform as they workto pass legislation this year. The data represents the collective judgment ofthousands of Californians who took part in a day-long deliberation in whichthey learned about the issues, shared their ideas, and voted on the optionsusing electronic keypads.

Forums were held simultaneously in Sacramento, San Diego, Humboldt County,Fresno, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Oakland and Riverside.

Fifty-three percent of participants said that part-time, seasonal andother non-traditional workers must be included in order for them to support amandate on employers to provide health coverage to their employees, also knownas "pay or play." Other conditions for supporting an employer mandate includedprovisions to prevent employers from reducing coverage or benefits (49%), capson rising costs (48%), and protections for small businesses (45%). Fivepercent of participants said they would support an employer mandate under anyconditions.

Conditions for supporting a single-payer health care system includedcontrolling costs and bureaucracy (55%), maintaining choice for providers(53%), and ensuring quality of care regardless of geography or income (51%).Sixteen percent of participants said they would support a single-payer systemunder any circumstances.

Other reform options that were discussed include an individual mandatethat would require all Californians to have health insurance, an expansion ofpublic programs to cover vulnerable populations, a guarantee for health carecoverage by insurance companies, and a variety of cost control measures.

The real-time, nonpartisan health care discussion blended small-groupdialogue with cutting-edge technology. The event was organized byAmericaSpeaks, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with the mission ofproviding Americans with a greater voice in policy making.

"While political and media pundits continue to ponder the future of healthreform in this state, 3,500 Californians ignored the rhetoric and sent asimple, powerful message to California's lawmakers," said Dr. Carolyn J.Lukensmeyer, founder and president of AmericaSpeaks. "Now that the statebudget has been resolved, it is time for leaders to turn their attention tohealth care reform and respond to the public's sense of urgency."

The eight sites were linked by satellite, so that participants could seeand hear what other attendees said across the state. Skilled facilitators ledface-to-face discussions at each location while ideas were recorded,considered and voted upon throughout the day with personal voting keypads. Toensure that attendees spanned all different ages, ethnicities, andsocio-economic backgrounds, CaliforniaSpeaks used a random selection processto invite most of the participants to take part in the conversation.

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