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SB 562, the single-payer bill introduced in the State Senate last year, which would dismantle our current system of public and private health coverage in California, has been put on hold indefinitely and will likely expire later this year. While the California Nurses Association, the primary proponent of the legislation, is adamant that the bill should be passed, even the bill’s authors, Senators Atkins and Lara are admitting that the odds are low and that it will take much more time to lay the groundwork for such a far-reaching piece of legislation.
In Sacramento and elsewhere in the state, the focus has turned to finding less disruptive ways to reach the goal of “universal healthcare.” By shifting the focus away from SB 562 as a way of providing universal healthcare, legislators and others will gain wider support because stakeholders can envision many ways to achieve universal healthcare without dismantling the current system of public and private healthcare financing and delivery.
For example, last week, the Select Committee on Healthcare Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage, established by Speaker Anthony Rendon to study methods of achieving universal healthcare (of which one option is SB 562), published a report: A Path To Universal Coverage And Unified Health Care Financing In California. The report proposes numerous ways to address the problem of California’s uninsured and underinsured. None of those near-term (over the next few years) recommendations includes a single-payer system as envisioned by SB 562. The report does, however, discuss the potential advantages of a single-payer system in the context of a long-term solution, but also highlights the numerous difficult challenges that such a solution would incur. In short, single-payer is presented in the report as more of a theoretical possibility rather than one that has any chance of being implemented.
This year, we can expect to see new legislation that leverages the findings and recommendations in the Select Committee’s report. We can also expect to see most of California’s gubernatorial and state legislative candidates promote their own policy proposals on universal healthcare ahead of the November elections.
Cooler heads have prevailed, the single-payer concept has been put to rest for now. We look forward to more productive proposals to achieve the laudable goal of universal healthcare.
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