Amid cost concerns, lawmakers delay vote on universal healthcare
The measure to create a single-payer California Healthcare System could cost the state general fund $200 billion annually, according to a legislative analysis, so the Senate Appropriations Committee put the proposal on hold for at least a few days so it can be given further consideration.
Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said his SB 810, dubbed "Medicare for All,'' is needed to make healthcare affordable and accessible to state residents. He told the committee that healthcare premiums have gone up 153% since 2002, while the percentage of employers providing coverage is declining.
"It’s going to get even more burdensome for families," Leno warned. "Clearly the system is not working for employers ... employees and families."
Leno said he measure, by eliminating private insurers as the middlemen, would reduce costs. The legislation would prohibit the sale of any private health insurance policy in California. Instead, a new state agency would charge premiums to workers and their employers and negotiate coverage with private healthcare providers. Similar bills have fallen short in recent years.
The measure is supported by the California Nurses Assn. and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, but it is opposed by an industry group called America's Health Insurance Plans and by the California Chamber of Commerce, which said it would create added financial burdens for employers and employees.
Marc Burgat, a vice president of the chamber, said the cost would be "significant," and he noted that Congress has approved healthcare reform on the federal level. "We think the state and businesses in the state should focus on that," Burgat said.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: State Sen. Mark Leno, pictured on right during last year's budget debate, is pushing a "Medicare for All'' plan. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press