What Would Single-Payer Healthcare Look Like in California? Lawmakers Release New Details

A proposal in California for a single-payer healthcare system would dramatically expand the state government’s presence in medical care and slash the role of insurance companies.

New amendments released Thursday fill in some key details on the universal healthcare measure proposed by state Sens. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), although the biggest political question — how it would be paid for — remains unanswered.

Under the proposal, which was announced in February, the state would cover all medical expenses for every resident regardless of their income or immigration status, including inpatient, outpatient, emergency services, dental, vision, mental health and nursing home care.

Insurers would be prohibited from offering benefits that cover the same services as the state.

The program would eliminate co-pays and deductibles, and patients would not need to get referrals to see eligible providers. The system would be administered by an unpaid nine-person board appointed by the governor and the Legislature.

A universal healthcare system run by the government has long been a dream of liberals, with many rallying behind insurgent Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ proposal for “Medicare for all” in the 2016 race.

After a GOP effort to replace Obamacare stalled last week, Sanders said he intends to introduce a nationwide single-payer bill in the U.S. Senate.

Proponents in California, who are no longer playing defense to preserve the Affordable Care Act, also touted a broader healthcare plan.

“With Republicans’ failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Californians really get what is at stake with their healthcare,” Lara said in a statement. “We have the chance to make universal healthcare a reality now. It’s time to talk about how we get to healthcare for all that covers more and costs less.”

The cost — sure to be the biggest hurdle for the measure — so far remains unknown. The authors say they intend to pay for the program through “broad-based revenue,” but details of a funding proposal have not been hashed out.

Gov. Jerry Brown sounded wary of a sprawling single-payer plan while speaking to reporters last week on his trip to Washington D.C.

“Where do you get the extra money? This is the whole question,” Brown said.

The bill is sponsored by the California Nurses Assn., which already has been rallying its members in support of the bill, SB 562.

“There has been a seismic shift in our political system through grassroots activism; we have an inspired, motivated base that will make its voice heard,” RoseAnn DeMoro, the labor group’s president, said in a statement.

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