Universal Health Care has garnered much of the spotlight in national politics; however a state version is enjoying some early, if short-lived success in Sacramento. The California State Senate has passed SB 810, authored my Mark Leno (D) San Francisco. The bill, referred to as the California Universal Health Care Act, aims to provide health coverage to all Californians by way of a public/private partnership. Governor Schwarzenegger has already vowed to veto the bill should it reach his desk.
According to Leno's office, the bill would bring all California residents under one insurance plan. By creating, one massive purchaser, proponents claim that spending power would lower the overall cost of providing healthcare, prescription drugs and medical equipment.
The bill will target the money currently being spent on healthcare by consumers, employers and governmental agencies. Estimated at $212 billion annually, Leno believes that amount will be sufficient to provide healthcare for state residents.
"The real impetus behind this bill is a growing grassroots movement representing millions of Californians who want a health care system that takes care of their families and is affordable for themselves and employers," Senator Leno said. "At a time when millions of Californians are at risk of losing their health coverage and employers are being strangled by rising premiums, there is no choice but to stand up to insurance companies that squander 30% of every health care dollar on administrative overhead."
Leno claims that the bill has cost restrictions tied to economic factors like employment and state GDP, which he says will limit cost increases.
The bill passed the state senate on January 28 by a vote of 22-14, with one Democrat and all Republicans in opposition.
George Runner and Tony Strickland, our representatives in the state senate, blasted the bill's passage.
"This plan is to the Left and radical of what couldn't get out of Washington, said Runner. "Does anybody believe a state that has year-after-year deficits can control the costs of health care?"
Senator Strickland expressed shock that such a bill would be passed given the national reaction to healthcare legislation.
"SB 810 passed the Senate appropriations committee less than 48 hours after the voters of Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in the union, elected Republican Scott Brown in response to their strong opposition to the federal healthcare proposal. This bill is even worse than the federal proposal. It removes consumer choice - it makes private health insurance coverage and plans illegal."
Strickland continued; "If you want the compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the DMV, then this bill is for you."
The bill is now headed for the state Assembly. Why keep a bill moving, only to know that it's headed for a veto? Senator Leno says the topic needs to be discussed, and alternatives still make Universal Healthcare a possibility.
"Keep in mind, unlike at the federal level, here in California the voters will have the final say on this issue," he said. " If we can't get the Governor's signature, we know we will have to gather the signatures and put it before the voters ourselves. So by 2012 or 2014, we must educate voters so that they will not vote against their own health and financial interests when this issue gets to their ballot."