Root Canal For Single-Payer Health Bill

JAN. 26, 2012


Despite warnings that tooth decay in children can lead to a life in prison, the latest attempt at a single-payer health care bill in California failed to pass the Senate Thursday.

Surprising many supporters, SB 810, authored by San Francisco Democratic Sen. Mark Leno, didn’t get enough votes even from his own party to pass the “Medicare for all” bill.

Perhaps the projected $250 billion annual cost of the government-run healthcare system weighed heavily on the minds of lawmakers.

Democrats have lauded SB 810 as providing “Medicare for all” in California. But it failed on a 19-15 vote, with four Democrats abstaining, and one voting against it. No Republicans voted in favor of it.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 810 out of the committee on a party-line vote of 6-2. The committee estimated the cost of a single-payer healthcare system in the state to be as high as $250 billion annually.

Sponsored by the California Nurses Association and the California School Employees Association, the bill would cover a government-run healthcare system for all 37 million California residents.

A New Healthcare Agency

In all of the floor debate between Republican and Democratic Senators, not once was it mentioned that the bill would establish an entirely new state agency. “This bill would establish the California Healthcare System to be administered by the newly created California Healthcare Agency under the control of a Healthcare Commissioner appointed by the Governor and subject to confirmation by the Senate,” the bill’s language reads.

Described as a public-private partnership, Leno said the proposal would make sure that every Californian has a primary care provider. “It’s not socialized medicine. What changes is who pays for it.”

“12 million Californians went without some type of health care last year,” Leno said. “500,000 children missed school last year due to tooth decay. This is criminal.” Leno said that missing school leads to dropping out of school, no diploma, no job and eventually prison.

“The author mentioned kids with tooth decay and then all of a sudden they’re not making it in life,” Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, said. “It’s almost like that cable commercial where if you don’t buy cable, you’ll end up with a grandson with a spiked dog collar.”

“If you want the compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the DMV running your healthcare, then this bill is for you. SB 810 doubles the size of state government,” Strickland added.

According to Strickland, the Department of Finance opposes it. The LAO has warned against implementing statewide single-payer healthcare. “SB 810 promises health care for everyone, but it’s more like Medi-Cal for everyone,” Strickland said, comparing it to the state’s government assistance healthcare system.

Another Dental Analogy

“Medicare for all extends to every human being in California. Our prisons are filled with people who couldn’t succeed in school because of dental pain, because they couldn’t hear or see,” said Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, using the same analogy that a lack of health care leads to prison.

Hancock said that nurses and doctors support SB 810, but warned, “the insurance company mill literally tortures them – this is the most important topic we can address.”

Hostile Business Climate

Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, said that he talks to frustrated doctors who currently can’t get Medi-Cal to reimburse them. “California is becoming more of an island of hostile practices. We can’t afford to lose more employers in this hostile business environment,” said LaMalfa.

Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said the debate was only about whether every Californian ought to have access to health care.

“We are living in an era of limits,” said Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo. “I can’t imagine the pressure on education if this $250 billion cost competes with the $30 billion for education.”

In a letter sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee last week about SB 810, the California Taxpayers Association wrote, “The Legislative Analyst’s Office opined in a 2008 report that payroll taxes for employers and employees would need to be 4 percent higher than they are now for single-payer costs and revenues to balance. The necessary increase in taxes would discourage business growth, hurt investments and chase jobs away from this state.”

This is not the first single-payer healthcare bill for California. However, all previous attempts have either failed to pass the Legislature, or were vetoed, most recently by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Introduced in February 2011, Tuesday is the deadline for passage of SB 810.


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  1. Soquel Creek
    Soquel Creek 26 January, 2012, 18:29

    One only had to read the analysis for this Bill to know that it was DOA.

    * It would combine the existing PUBLIC health care system, the PRIVATE health care system, and the UNINSURED under one happy, all-powerful umbrella–a new state-run, single-payer system called the California Healthcare System (CHS).

    * The annual estimated cost is _only_ $200 to $250 BILLION, or more than double the state’s current income tax revenues! Think there’d be new taxes?

    * It would specific forbid private-sector alternatives to the CHS offerings. Want better service and a lower price? Forget about it. You could be private-sector add-ons, however.

    Given the Legislature’s stellar record of fiscal sanity and efficiency, this paragraph provided extra concern:

    “There would be ongoing General Fund pressure in the millions to billions of dollars because this bill would provide that the General Fund would be responsible for providing loans to the Healthcare Fund in the event of a shortfall or the delayed passage of the state’s annual Budget Act.”

    A shortfall or delayed passage of the annual budget? I thought that both were mandatory in California. Yikes!

    Reply this comment
  2. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 26 January, 2012, 22:29

    The fact remains that the current health care system in the United States needs massive reform. With many millions of boomers retiring in the next 10 years the medicare system isn’t sustainable. We can fix the social security system with a few changes. Medicare can’t be fixed without changing the entire health care system. Obamacare isn’t reform. It does more damage than good. Reforming the health care system is probably the most critical challenge facing America.

    Reply this comment
  3. Geoff
    Geoff 8 February, 2012, 12:46

    The fact remains that 6.6 MILLION Californians remain without access to health insurance, and 50 MILLION Americans lack it. For those (mainly Republicans) who are so hostile to Single Payer, what is your plan for getting these people covered? Or is it just to let them die? Statistically, for every million without health insurance, one thousand will die as a result annually. So that’s 1,600 California residents who will die this year as a result of our collective failure to create a system that guarantees universal access to affordable medical care.

    And the estimated cost of SB 810–$250 billion–is meaningful only when compared with what we are currently paying, which the writer failed to mention.

    SB 810 would have provided all residents with comprehensive health care regardless of their age, health or employment status. While controlling health care costs, the state would pay for all health care charges for care provided to residents by private doctors, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other providers that continue to operate as independent entities.

    This health care system would NOT be “socialized health care” because the state would not run the health care delivery system. Instead, it would manage how the system is financed and provide coverage for all residents based on a single standard of care for everyone.

    Reply this comment

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