Community Columns

GOP health care reform won't 'fix' what isn't broken

Health care is a lightning-rod issue this year, both in California and nationally. Rising costs, shortages of qualified providers and government interference are at the heart of what is wrong with our system.

The issue is so important that Gov. Schwarzenegger called the Legislature into special session to address it. Unfortunately, proposals offered by Democrats and the governor ignore millions of Californians who are happy with their health coverage and limit the debate to universal health care and government-run health coverage.

While California's health care system definitely needs some reforms, it does provide the vast majority of Californians with high-quality care and some of the best treatment in the world. Keeping this in mind, Senate Republicans developed a plan far less drastic than the radical, expensive proposals offered by Democrats and the governor. The Republican plan, called Cal CARE Plus, preserves what is right about the current system while addressing what is wrong.

Universal health care and government- mandated health coverage pushed by Democrats, and even Schwarzenegger, seek to provide new coverage to an estimated 6.8 million people. However, many uninsured people have the ability to pay but decline to purchase insurance, fail to apply for existing social programs or are in our country illegally. These proposals do not reduce the cost of coverage or increase access to care in California. In reality, the cost of government- mandated health care will force many businesses to cut jobs or benefits or close altogether, inevitably resulting in a massive shift from employer- based coverage to government- based coverage.

The less risky and more responsible path for getting more Californians health insurance is to provide more flexible, affordable and accessible options to consumers. This is accomplished, for example, by eliminating unnecessary regulations, utilizing clinics for nonemergency and preventative care, which also cuts emergency room costs, and reprioritizing existing resources to provide more resources for the neediest Californians.

Additionally, Cal CARE Plus gives people control over their health care by mirroring federal income tax benefits for health savings accounts which allow people to save, tax-free, for future medical expenses, in combination with their health insurance.

As part of Cal CARE Plus, I have introduced several bills to make common sense reforms. These changes include allowing hospitals to employ doctors directly, offering high-deductible health plans coupled with health savings accounts to government employees as an alternative to traditional health care plans, and providing tax incentives to physicians who provide health services in rural areas that have been traditionally underserved.

Unlike Democrats and the governor, who are looking to new taxes or selling state assets to pay for their programs, Republicans are calling for a reprioritization of existing resources. Rather than sending billions in tobacco taxes for social programs and dozens of commissions, Cal CARE Plus calls for those funds to be used on children's health care as they were intended to be spent. Cal CARE Plus also realigns Medi-Cal benefits to be similar to those available to most Californians.

We must find innovative solutions, not rehash bad ideas; universal health care is not the answer. Under Cal CARE Plus, every Californian will have more health care options and better access to services that are more affordable and cost-efficient -- without raising taxes. Cal CARE Plus puts patients and California's families first and does not burden society with unwanted, unfunded, and untested mandates. It addresses the problems in health care without sacrificing our existing system, which serves the vast majority of Californians so well.

For more information on Cal CARE Plus, please visit the Senate Republican caucus Web site:

Cogdill, a Republican from Modesto, represents the 14th Senate District, which includes parts of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties and all of Tuolumne and Mariposa counties.