IRVINE — Via a satellite hookup from Washington, where he had been meeting with Clinton Administration officials, state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi on Thursday gave local business people some clues about national health insurance proposals likely to emerge this year.
Garamendi told the Irvine Chamber of Commerce that there is a great need for national health insurance available "to everyone who is in the country legally." He said that employers and employees would jointly pay premiums for the health insurance and that the money would be collected by the federal government.
A single form of national health insurance would replace the existing maze of overlapping insurance programs and health care programs, Garamendi said.
"What we are suggesting is that we consolidate our health care programs into a single, 24-hour-a-day, universally available health insurance," Garamendi said. "The money would be collected in a central fund, perhaps regionally administered. And the existing health-care systems . . . would bid for that pile of money. You and I could then choose which of the providers we wanted."
Garamendi had been in Washington this week to give health-insurance advice to Hillary Rodham Clinton. He spent Wednesday night at the White House.
President Clinton named his wife to head a task force on national health care. Garamendi is not a member of the task force, but he is providing advice to it, according to his spokesman, Bill Schulz.
Garamendi, a Democrat who was elected state insurance commissioner in 1990, had been scheduled to speak to the Irvine Chamber of Commerce's annual economic conference at the Irvine Marriott Hotel. When he was asked to come to Washington to confer with the Clintons, Garamendi arranged to speak to the chamber by satellite.
Garamendi told the Irvine business people that the existing system of health care and health insurance is "inefficient and ineffective."
"It's inefficient in that 25% of every dollar that enters the medical system is used for administrative expenses: paper pushers, computer systems, tracking claims, tracking forms," he said.
By contrast, Garamendi said, Japan, Canada and most European nations only spend about 7% to 9% of health insurance money on administrative costs. "If we could be as efficient as those countries (in health insurance), we could save about $120 billion annually across the nation," Garamendi said.