The clash over health care

Jan. 28, 2010

By KATY GRIMES

On a vote of 22 to 14, the California State Senate today approved Senate Bill 810, which creates a government-run health care system, also known as single-payer health care.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to create a single-payer health system in the state. In a party-line vote (6-3), Democratic senators pushed through the controversial proposal, even after the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said the bill would cost California taxpayers at least $200 billion more a year.

The proposal by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) authorizes $1 million to establish a commission that would decide how to pay for the system. The funding plan would ultimately have to be approved by voters. Yet during the hearing, Leno said that, “We are spending $200 billion currently. It is the same $200 billion used in a more efficient, cost-effective fashion.”

A source close to Leno said the $200 billion cost is not new spending, but rather what is currently being spent in California by employers, employees and the state on health care. The source said Leno’s proposal would take the $200 billion and turn it into the single-payer system, potentially saving $8 billion just the first year. The source said that the proposed health care bill would eliminate the middle man insurance companies and potentially save 30 percent in administrative costs.

When asked what would happen to the insurance companies and their employees, the source said that they would probably be integrated into the new system.

Opponents take a different view. “This plan is to the left and radical of what couldn’t get out of Washington,” Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) said during the hearing. After the hearing, Runner added that the vote “is a clash of philosophical views as well as the proper role of government.”

During the hearing, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Republicans have only been obstructing the Democrats’ health care bills and have proposed nothing of their own. Runner took exception when he spoke, saying Republicans have supported many reforms of insurance and health care.

Runner explained that he sought out and spoke with Steinberg after the hearing for clarification on Steinberg’s comments, and while he thought is was good to have the lively debate and exchange of ideas during the hearing, the Democrats risk alienating conservative Democrats by delivering only to their most liberal base. Indeed, during the hearing Runner said that the bill was related to “what caused that earthquake of election in Massachusetts,” referring to the recent upset win by Republican Scott Brown of the late- Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat. Runner added that he’s incredulous that anyone thinks “that the State of California can make better decisions in your health care.”

Of course, all this may prove to be largely symbolic. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has already made it known that he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk.


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