When you boil it down, single payer means the state
becomes THE health insurance company.
Proponents of the single payer system say it is cheaper and
provides better results than the private health care model. And at
the state Capitol Tuesday, those proponents filled a committee room
and spilled out into the hallways for a chance to voice that
After 45 minutes of testimony, most members of the Assembly
Health committee seemed genuinely impressed by the turn out.
"It shows your commitment to this issue," Chairman Bill
Monning, a central coast Democrat, told the group.
And while it's popular among progressives, San Francisco
Democratic Senator Mark Leno says he expects Governor
Schwarzenegger will issue a veto, if Leno's proposal passes. That's
because the governor has done it twice before with
similar measures since 2006.
"But we're moving forward because it continues the debate,"
Leno says. "Keep in mind without the bill, and without this
hearing, your listeners wouldn't be learning about single paying
health care reform."
Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, a Thousand Oaks Republican,
challenged Leno repeatedly as he presented the bill. On the plan's
lax residency requirements, she asked Leno if the single payer
system would bring indigent patients from other states looking for
better benefits. On the plan's funding system, Strickland asked
Leno if it would drive away businesses.
"I don't understand it," Leno finally replied. "On one hand
you're saying this bill is going to bring everybody to the state…
and on the other hand you're saying it's going to drive everyone
Shortly after that exchange, and some
chuckles from Leno supporters, Strickland walked out
without casting a vote.
Leno says indigent patients that move to California will be
covered by Medi-Cal, and that the state would in turn be reimbursed
by the federal government. The Senator also restated his
belief that jobs would come to California so business owners and
corporations could cut down on health care overhead.
"It killed [General Motors]…" Leno told the committee. "This
makes business in the state competitive."
Leno says the bill would be paid for by taking the 200 billion
dollars Californians spend on privatized health and shifting it to
the single payer system. However, other analysts have put that cost
much higher if the state was to cover it's 37 million
In the past, Schwarzenegger has said he can not endorse
socialized medicine. Business groups also oppose the plan, saying
the taxes needed to pay for the program would be too high.
Meanwhile, the recent passage of the federal health care law
is giving opponents of the bill some political cover. Marti Fisher
lobbies for the California Chamber. They oppose the bill, and
instead of arguing the merits and cost projections of single payer,
Fisher can point to the new federal law, and say, 'Hey Congress
took a lot time to pass that measure.'
"A lot of experts put in their opinions, and they went through
a great deal of analysis" Fisher continues. "We should give them a
chance to see if this works out."
Fisher says California shouldn't go it alone on health care.
She also opposes new taxes it would create to pay for the
While business groups oppose it, the education lobby came out
strongly in favor of Leno's proposal. The L.A. School District, for
example, estimates it would have another 600 dollars per student,
if the district could dump retirees' health care costs. A
spokeswoman for the district told the committee that 18 percent of
the annual budget is spent on health care.
Leno says it's just going to get worse.
"By 2025, it's possible more than 25% of our [Gross Domestic
Product] will be spent on health care," Leno told Capital Public
Radio after the hearing. "That's why we have to continue this
The bill was passed out of the Assembly Committee on Health,
and now goes on to the Appropriations Committee.