Single-payer health care system re-introduced in California

While California’s budget woes have dominated the headlines, the California Universal Health Care Act – Senate Bill 810 – was introduced by California State Democrats, seeking to create a single-payer health care system. Led by State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), if enacted, SB 810 would replace the federal health care system signed into law just 14 months ago.

SB 810 creates a public-private partnership to provide every state resident with medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug benefits, while still allowing patients to choose their own doctors and hospitals. The measure seeks to pool all the dollars that individuals, employers and the government are paying to insurance companies and use the money to give all Californians access to the health care system, including undocumented residents.

It also seeks to reduce the massive administrative costs currently incurred by the involvement of insurance companies, as well as the expenses racked-up by doctors and other medical providers seeking payment from insurers.  Based on a study conducted in 2006, it is estimated that SB 810 will save California about $20 billion its first year through reduced administrative costs. Leno is seeking to bring this study up-to-date before advancing the bill this year. The bill has passed through the Senate Health Committee and is now in the Rules Committee

Addressing the cost savings alone, Senator Leno explained that:

     “There are some 6,000 health plans in California, and health care providers spend about one-third of their resources just getting paid.”

Not everyone agrees. Assemblymember Tim Donnelly (R- Hesperia) said that:

     “It is unrealistic and disingenuous to promise what the author has promised in this bill. It is impossible to offer coverage to every resident at a reasonable cost without engaging in rationing. S.B. 810 promises to destroy any semblance of consumer choice in health care left. “

California is not alone. Thousands of miles away to the east, creation of a single-payer health care system – Green Mountain Care- is close to being enacted. In fact, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin will sign legislation this week that will put Vermont on track to do just that.

This is California’s third attempt to implement a single-payer health care system. The first two attempts were vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now with a Democratic Governor, will the third time be the charm?

For more information on SB 810, go here.