California Legislators Look to Establish a Single-Payer Health Care System in the State

Health Care

The debate over establishing a single-payer health care system in California is alive and well. Earlier this summer, SB 562 was going through the California state legislature when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon decided to halt the measure over concerns about how to fund a single-payer system. With the California gubernatorial race heating up for 2018, the single-payer health care debate will continue to get stronger as candidates and current office holders solidify their position on this issue.

Under SB 652, California will pay for the health care expenses of its residence and do away with private health insurance companies. The cost to fund this proposal is estimated around $300 billion to $400 billion, but the state Senate cannot agree on a source of revenue to fund this proposal. In a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 65% of adult respondents support a single-payer system, but support for this plan dropped by over 20% when the respondents were told taxes will need to increase to fund this plan. The legislature is unwilling to take on an unpopular vote on increasing taxes.

To avoid an unpopular vote to increase taxes, some legislators are proposing to create a separate special account for the sole purpose of funding the single-payer health care system. This account will be exempt from the spending rules that the state’s general fund operates under. This fall, Assembly Speaker Rendon will hold informational meetings so legislators can discuss a variety of single-payer options. Several other countries offer universal health care coverage for its residents without running a single-payer system. Financing, benefits, and cost sharing options are expected to be discussed in these meetings.

The top Democrat gubernatorial candidates have differing opinions about the proposed single-payer system. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa doesn’t support it. Treasurer John Chiang supports it, but he is concerned about its implementation. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom also supports a single-payer system, but he hasn’t offered a plan on how to run it.

The California Nurses Association is one of the main groups who support the passage of SB 562. They have been holding town hall meetings and knocking on doors in various communities to generate support for SB 562. The union is not ruling out putting up their own gubernatorial candidate who is serious about this issue and will support SB 562.