To those who haven't followed the health care debate closely until now, you might be surprised by one of California's leading proponents of universal coverage. It's Bruce Bodaken, CEO of Blue Shield of California, one of California's largest health insurance companies. He first proposed a system of universal coverage for Californians ten years ago.
"At that time, there was 20 percent of Californians without coverage," he said in an interview with KQED. "We looked at that in one of the richest societies in the world and said, 'Simply unacceptable for people not to have at least basic health care.' So we proposed that all people in California have at least basic coverage. Those that can't afford it would be subsidized and all groups and individuals would be mandated to be covered."
It sounds a lot like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being considered by the Supreme Court this week. Tomorrow, the Court will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of the individual mandate -- the requirement that all Americans have health insurance. Those opposed say that Congress has exceeded its authority in requiring Americans to purchase a product.
Bodaken doesn't see it that way. "I'm no lawyer and the Court will decide whatever they decide," he says. "But I do know this -- we mandate many things in this society. ... I have to send my children to school, at least to a certain age. If you want to drive a car, you have to have auto insurance. I don't think this is all that different."
Tuesday, lawyers arguing in favor of the individual mandate are expected to make what -- at first glance -- looks like an odd request. They will ask the Court that if Justices decide to strike down the individual mandate, that they also strike down a very popular provision of the ACA, the "guaranteed issue" provision. You might know it as the requirement that insurers accept everyone, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. Bodaken understands why the Obama Administration would ask the Court to strike down guaranteed issue if it declares the individual mandate unconstitutional.