The state Senate passed SB 810 — a single-payer universal health care bill — on a party line vote, with all the votes in favor coming from Democrats and the opposition coming from Republicans.
The legislation, by San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno, is nearly identical to SB 840, the single-payer bill authored by former Sen. Sheila Kuehl that the Legislature passed in 2008, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The bill envisions a system that would collect $200 billion a year from individuals, businesses and government and use that money to finance health care for every Californian. Individuals would choose their own doctors and hospitals, which would be reimbursed by the state. Benefit levels and reimbursement amounts would be set by a board with members appointed by state officials.
Supporters of the plan say it would save money by eliminating private insurance administrative and marketing costs. But opponents say it would create government control of the health system and lead to rationing. Although an independent economic study once concluded that the Kuehl bill would lead to lower health care costs over time, the authors of that study conceded that the lower costs were mostly the result of an edict in the bill limiting the increase in health costs to no more than the inflation rate. If the demand for services or their actual cost exceeded that trend line, the state board would have to reduce services to fit within the budget.
Senate leader Darrell Steinberg acknowledged today that the single-payer bill has no chance of becoming law this year. But he said he hoped the bill’s passage would stir bipartisan debate on the issue in California at a time when federal passage of health reform is beginning to seem less likely.