Saturday, June 24, 2017

California’s Battle for Single Payer

On June 1, the California Senate passed a health care bill that has folks hopeful:
A proposal to adopt a single-payer healthcare system for California took an initial step forward Thursday when the state Senate approved a bare-bones bill that lacks a method for paying the $400-billion cost of the plan. The proposal was made by legislators led by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) at the same time President Trump and Republican members of Congress are working to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act…The bill, which now goes to the state Assembly for consideration, will have to be further developed, Lara conceded, adding he hopes to reach a consensus on a way to pay for it. Republican senators opposed the bill as a threat to the state’s finances.
Per usual, the Republicans are claiming private insurance is better and one cannot raise taxes to pay for this. While there has been a lot of Democratic support, some Democrats have suggested this proposal needs to be more fully developed. Robert Pollin suggests it is all doable with certain “cost savings” and tax increases. He co-authored Economic Analysis of the Healthy California Single-Payer Health Care Proposal (SB-562). I’ll admit I have not read this analysis but at least we have a start here. Alas the bill is being shelved in the House:
A high-profile effort to establish a single-payer healthcare system in California sputtered on Friday when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) decided to shelve the proposal. Rendon announced late Friday afternoon that the bill, SB 562 by state Sens. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would not advance to a policy hearing in his house, dampening the measure’s prospect for swift passage this year. “SB 562 was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete,” Rendon said in a statement. “Even senators who voted for SB 562 noted there are potentially fatal flaws in the bill, including the fact it does not address many serious issues, such as financing, delivery of care, cost controls, or the realities of needed action by the Trump Administration and voters to make SB 562 a genuine piece of legislation.” Rendon took pains to note that his action does not kill the bill entirely — because it is the first year of a two-year session, it could be revived next year. But the move is nonetheless a major setback for legislation that has electrified the Democratic party’s progressive flank.
It is good that this proposal is not dead and maybe much more work needs to be done. But California needs to lead the nation and Lord knows Washington D.C. is AWOL.

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