By Rohin Ghosh
June 29, 2017
Protesters outside San Francisco City Hall demanding a Medicare for
All/Single-Payer health care system.
While Republicans in Washington DC have been working on their health care bill, a bill which will, if passed, strip health insurance from tens of millions of people, Democrats in the California state legislature have been working on their own healthcare bill. California’s Senate Bill 562 seeks to realize what many progressives have been working at for years, finally establishing a single-payer health care system. Having a single payer healthcare system means that the government would cover provide medical insurance to everybody free of charge. This healthcare system is implemented in some form or another in every developed nation and many developing countries but not the United States. Canada, the United Kingdom, France Germany, Australia, and even poorer countries such as Rwanda and Morocco, as well as 51 other countries, all implement universal government provided health care programs and for the most part, these systems work.
All countries highlighted in green have a universal single-payer health care system.
California State Senator Ricardo Lara from Los Angeles County is the sponsor of SB 562, the bill to implement a single-payer health care system in California.
The healthcare bill, SB 562 was introduced in the California State Senate in February by State Senator Ricardo Lara from the Los Angeles area. The bill passed the Senate on June 1st. The CA State Assembly has since shelved the bill for one year so that further revisions can be made. This was done by the Speaker of the Assembly, Anthony Rendon who said that the bill still has several “fatal flaws” namely that the bill still doesn’t include provisions to raise the revenue to fund the universal health care program. Speaker Rendon later clarified that he does support that basic principle of establishing a Medicare for All-Single Payer health care system although some progressives accuse him of trying to stall the process of passing the health care bill. Once the bill is introduced in the Assembly, it will likely pass considering that Democrats have a super majority there, meaning that they control more than two-thirds of the seats. The toughest challenge for SB 562 may come from Governor Jerry Brown who has said several times that he does not yet support single-payer health care in California. On the other hand, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has expressed full support for a single-payer/Medicare for all health care system. Newsom is seen as the most likely candidate to become governor in 2018 after Jerry Brown’s term will be finished. Many members of the California state Senate and Assembly support introducing an initiative to implement a single-payer health system as a question on the ballot in the 2018 election, allowing the citizens of California to decide this issue.
Under the SB 562, the California state government would provide insurance for basic health care services to all citizens of California. The government would directly compensate doctors and hospitals for providing care to citizens enrolled in the program. Private insurers would still exist in a greatly diminished role to cover things like plastic surgery which would not be covered by the government of California.
An important fact to consider is that the CA legislature’s budget office estimates that implementing SB 562 would come with a price tag of about $400 billion. The office also expects that passing the bill would save 200 billion dollars from ending all other health care programs as they would no longer be needed. the remaining $200 billion would have to come from tax increases. The budget office of the CA legislature predicts that there would have to be a 15% in total tax revenue to pay for the single-payer health care bill. However, the budget office also expects that companies would have significantly lowered expenses because they would no longer have to provide health insurance to employees.
The main group which originally backed the passage of SB 562 is the California Nurses Association. This group along with most progressive or Democratic organizations, most labor unions, and many doctors’ and nurses’ groups support passing single-payer health care. Several cities and towns including San Francisco and Berkley have also passed resolutions in support of SB 562. The main arguments by proponents of the bill are that healthcare costs are too high for most people in California because of insurance companies’ greed. Many believe that healthcare is a human right and that California should join every developed country other than the United States by providing a basic essential, the right to be treated in the case of illness or injury to its citizens regardless of someone’s economic status. Proponents of single-payer also believe that implementing the system in California, the nation’s largest state will spur other states to follow in implementing their own versions of this system and may even result in a single-payer health care system being implemented on a national scale.
Most of the groups opposing single-payer health care in California are either conservative Republican organization as well as insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. The main arguments that these groups make are that ending most activities by health insurance companies and raising taxes on large corporations would result in a major loss of jobs.