- California state Senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins have introduced a bill, SB 562, which aims to establish a single-payer healthcare system covering all California residents.
- Full text of the bill is here. It’s sponsored by the California Nurses Association, and the bill as written is not yet complete. Lara and Atkins intend to make changes in the coming months, and I imagine input from constituents and other legislators will be a big part of that.
Who to call
- Your state legislators. Normally, I would specify your senators specifically, as that’s the house to which this bill has been introduced, but this is such a far-reaching effort, it seems appropriate to call your assemblymembers as well and offer your thoughts. The bill should head next to the Senate’s health and appropriations committees.
It’s rare that I get an email press release that feels like actual news. Usually, it’s legislators and lobbyists trying to draw my attention to a photo op or their opinion on something newsworthy, but it’s seldom that the content of the release is in and of itself newsworthy. When I opened this one, I can’t say I was entirely surprised, but it is a doozy: Senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins have introduced legislation to create a single-payer healthcare system in California.
It’s not just the political muscle that progressives are flexing but also the timing that makes this bill newsworthy. With Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, the country is bracing itself for the gutting or likely repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. State legislators in California have promised to shield the state from such a rollback, as its effect would be most significant in the union’s most populous state where lawmakers have leaned into the ACA, engaging in policies like the optional Medicaid expansion and creating a robust healthcare market known as Covered California.
Last year, MediCal, the state’s Medicaid program, celebrated its 50th anniversary, and I attended a panel on it in Sacramento. The general feeling among most of the folks I interviewed was that California is a leader in areas like healthcare. California isn’t the first state to try this, but most efforts have failed due to a lack of public support. Vermont was the only state that ever got to implementation of such a program but discontinued it in 2014.
It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. In the past, the political cost of such a system has been too steep for American politicians to pursue (consider the political capital President Obama spent to pass the modest reforms of the ACA), but Californian progressives seem ready for a fight. The state voted overwhelmingly against Trump and has largely been seen as a bastion of resistance to his policies, having hired former Attorney General Eric Holder in anticipation of legal fights with the administration.