Bay Area Leaders Say True Health Reform Requires Campaign Finance Reform

* Joined by 2010 initiative author Sen. Loni Hancock, League of Women Voters, CA Nurses Association and Health Care Advocates to tout California Fair Elections Act

By Press Release

OAKLAND, CA - As the nation debates reforms necessary to make health care more accessible and affordable, State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), the League of Women Voters of Oakland, the California Nurses Association and Health Care for All gathered today to call for the passage of the California Fair Elections Act to get insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and other anti-reform interests out of the business of funding political campaigns.

"While we can debate the best way to reform our health care system, we can all agree on two things: our health care system is broken, and the influence of special interest money means ordinary Americans don't have a voice in the debate," said Senator Loni Hancock. "By passing the California Fair Elections Act, we can begin to break the connection between political donations and public policy."

The national health care debate has focused critical attention on the need for reforms that will protect our families and enable businesses to remain competitive in a global economy. The passionate debate has also drawn attention to the pervasive influence of special interest money in this most important of public policy issues.

"California, with the largest population of uninsured families, has the most to gain from health care reforms and the most to lose if health care is not expanded and insurance costs are not reigned in," said Trent Lange, Chair of Californians for Fair Elections. "It is critical that California pass the California Fair Elections Act in June 2010 so that elected officials only have to think of the needs of the voters, not big money campaign contributors."

Since 2000, drug companies, the insurance industry, HMOs, hospitals and nursing homes have contributed more than $280 million to candidates and initiatives in California. The result has been high prescription drug prices, a severe lacking of funding for health care and 7 million Californians who have no health insurance.

"The California Fair Elections initiative will help lay the foundation for real reform of healthcare in our state," said Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy for the California Nurses Association. "Nurses know that eliminating the campaign contributions from the deep-pocket special interests - the HMO's, drug companies and the insurance industry- that overwhelm our elections is essential to guaranteeing healthcare to all Californians. "

Appearing on the June 2010 ballot, the California Fair Elections Act, authored by Loni Hancock and signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, would establish a voluntary pilot public financing program for the 2014 and 2018 Secretary of State races.

Modeled after successful Fair Elections systems currently used in seven U.S. states and two cities, the initiative aims to mitigate the influence of big donors and special interests in elections.

Fair Elections have already been shown to provide tangible benefits for health care reform initiatives. In Arizona, Governor Janet Napolitano, the nation's first governor elected under a Fair Elections system, was able to fulfill a campaign promise by signing an executive order to create a discount prescription drug program on her first day of office. Maine's fairly-elected legislature was able to pass a law that enables families to purchase prescription drudges on the Medicaid list at Medicaid prices, resulting in saving of up to 60 percent off market prices. In Connecticut, that's state's legislature - 80 percent of whom were elected with Fair Elections - passed two bills to establish universal health care - only to have those bills vetoed by the governor who was elected with private money before Fair Elections.

"Health Care for All-California believes that providing people with comprehensive, reliable, and affordable health insurance is a basic human right," said Andrew McGuire, Executive Director of HCA-California. "The Fair Elections Act would give candidates who support progressive healthcare reform a chance to work at implementing universal healthcare in California."

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