Capitol tracker: Push for universal health care is on


Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was in California over the weekend promoting a piece of state legislation.

While some in Congress are working to repeal the Affordable Care Act that was implemented under President Barack Obama, California legislators are working on a proposal for single-payer health care that has potential to cover every single California resident, regardless of immigration status.

“Please lead the country and pass the single-payer bill,” Sanders said in a speech Saturday.

The bill, SB 562 — also called the Healthy California Act, would create universal publicly funded health care.

The bill was introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and sponsored and co-authored by North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg). It passed out of the Senate Health Committee on April 26. Its next big hurdle is the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Lara is the chair. The last day for the bill to pass out of a fiscal committee is May 26, according to the legislative calendar.

“Every family, every child, every senior deserves healthcare that costs less and covers more, and California has a chance to lead the rest of the nation toward universal care,” Lara said after it cleared the health committee last month.

McGuire said last week after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act that the Healthy California Act is a chance for the state to act.

“Our national health care system is under attack, and the time has come for California to advance the critical conversation about implementation of single-payer health care,” Senator McGuire said.

According to Lara, here is what Californians would see if the bill passes:

• Coverage for all medical care, emergency care, dental, vision, mental health and nursing home care;

• No more co-pays or deductibles that have to be met;

• Californians would be covered when they travel;

• Referrals will not be required; and

• Costs for prescriptions would decline.

The biggest issue with the proposed single-payer health care bill is who will fund the program.

Gov. Jerry Brown in a visit to Washington, D.C., last week expressed concern about the big funding question.

“Where do you get the extra money?” he asked. “This is the whole question.”

The text of the bill itself does not provide any guidance on who or what would provide the funding.

“It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would develop a revenue plan, taking into consideration anticipated federal revenue available for the program,” the bill states. “In developing the revenue plan, it is the intent of the Legislature to consult with appropriate officials and stakeholders.”

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.