SACRAMENTO - To ecstatic applause from healthcare advocates, the California
Senate today breathed new life into national prospects for fundamental
health reform by passing on a 22 to 14 vote a major bill to guarantee
healthcare in the state through creating a Medicare for all system that
would cover every Californian.
SB 810, The California Universal Healthcare Act, authored by Sen.
Mark Leno and sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National
Nurses United (CNA/NNU), with broad support among many healthcare,
community, and labor groups, will now proceed to a vote by the
Assembly, which has passed similar legislation in the past. The bill
would establish a single-payer system in California, modeled on the
healthcare systems flourishing in virtually all other industrialized
nations, where better patient outcomes are achieved at a fraction of
the cost of the U.S. system.
“It is unclear what the prospects are for health reform at the
national level,” said CNA co-president Geri Jenkins, RN, “but this vote
offers California the chance to chart a new course for the nation. SB
810 will guarantee healthcare for every family through a humane system
that controls costs and allows patients and their doctors--not
insurance agents--to make decisions about healthcare,” said Jenkins.
“People will pay less, and no longer be denied care based on their
income, age, location, or pre-existing health conditions.”
Noting during the floor debate that, “consistently 59 per cent of
California voters say yes” they want a Medicare for all system in the
state, Sen. Leno added that single-payer is not just a bill for a
humane health system, but also a jobs program for a state that
desperately needs one: “We can’t compete in a global marketplace where
all our competitors have had the government take the burden of
healthcare off the shoulders of their employers….as we move towards
single-payer in this state, and have better universal coverage, this
will attract employers to California. We are already underwater in our
healthcare system. We can’t keep up.”
Referring to opposition arguments about supposed ballooning costs
under the bill, Sen. Leno pointed out that a single payer system would
simply redirect current spending on healthcare, away from insurance
overhead and towards a more direct and efficient way of providing
care. Additionally the bill would not go into effect immediately; the
current SB 810 creates a system to propose revenue streams that would
then go back to the legislature for final review.
Medicare for all or “single-payer” healthcare reforms, such as SB
810, would help create the kind of quality jobs so urgently needed
today, and do so while providing a huge economic stimulus. A CNA/NNU
study last year documented that national single-payer reform would
generate 2.6 million jobs and $317 billion in additional business and
public revenues. Further, CNA/NNU research last year found that six of
California’s largest insurance companies reject more than one-fifth of
all claims, an experience many California patients know all too well.
California is one of more than half a dozen states with similar
state legislation this year, indicative of the desire for healthcare
solutions by states no matter what happens at the federal level. Among
major supporters of SB 810 are the California School Employees
Association, California Physician Alliance, OneCare, and the Los
Angeles Unified School District.