California Launches Another Single-Payer Effort

Ernie Shannon's picture

Conflict between California’s state legislature and business interests over a “single-payer” health care bill heated up yesterday when a key state Senate committee accepted Senate Bill 810. The fiscal impact of the bill is estimated to be $200 billion annually.

San Francisco Democratic Senator Mark Leno submitted the bill which seeks to create the California Healthcare Agency that would pool employer and employee payments and then administer the money and negotiate rates with doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers. A proponent of the bill, Andrew McGuire of California OneCare, said, “If you want to have the most sane and inexpensive way to deliver health care, this is it.”

That opinion isn’t shared by the California Chamber of Commerce. Lobbyist Marti Fisher submitted a letter to the committee stressing that his organization disagrees fundamentally with California's health care system. The letter counters the argument that, (1) government systems are more efficient than private sector business, and (2) a single-payer system would be less costly than the current private system.” Fisher added that the Californians don’t want the government getting more deeply involved in their medicine.


The California state senate debate is playing out against a background of the nation’s Affordable Care Act developed by the Obama Administration and passed by Congress. It has also been challenged by more than a score of states. That debate will come to a head the end of March when the Supreme Court hears arguments on the healthcare act. McGuire feels the attention received by the national discussion about health care insurance has hurt California’s ability to set up a “single-payer” system. He believes the Affordable Care Act provides members of the state legislature with an excuse not to pursue state solutions by arguing the new health care law will solve the most pressing issues facing health care.

The Sacramento Bee reported this week that federal figures show that spending by individuals, health insurance companies, and government agencies in California amounted to $6,238 per resident in 2009, about $600 per person below the national average. The newspaper said California is demographically younger and has relatively high numbers of residents without health insurance coverage, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger twice vetoed single-payer health insurance bills and several other measures died in either the Senate of the Assembly during the last decade.

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