California Agents Fight Single-Payer Health Bill

California insurance agents and advisors are teaming up with insurers and employers in the state to stop Senate Bill 562, a bill that could create a universal, government-funded health care program for all California residents.

The California Association of Health Underwriters brought new survey data into the fight Wednesday. CAHU hired a polling firm to conduct a telephone survey of about 1,000 California voters.

About 66% of the participants said they oppose the idea of a single-payer health care system, and 44% said they strongly oppose the proposal, according to CAHU.

CAHU believes implementing S.B. 562 would cost at least $179 billion per year, or $9,100 per California taxpayer per year, according CAHU President Richard Coburn.

“This new policy would eliminate employer-paid health coverage and shifts health costs to employees,” Coburn said in a statement.

Supporters argue that the current U.S. health care system is so inefficient that shifting to a single-payer system might make providing health care much cheaper than S.B. 562 critics expect it to be.

S.B. 562

The bill calls for a new Healthy California board to use all federal money that would normally go to other health care programs in the state to pay for health care for all. The bill would prohibit the program from charging premiums, or from imposing any co-payments, coinsurance amounts or deductibles.

The bill also would prohibit private companies from offering major medical coverage in California. Insurers and managed care companies could still sell policies that covered health care services not covered by Healthy California.

Healthy California would cover the services included in the Affordable Care Act essential health benefits package along with dental care, vision care, chiropractic care and nursing home care.

The bill does not call for the state to impose any new taxes, but Senate legislative analysts say the state would have to impose new taxes to come up with revenue to make the Healthy California Program work.

Members of the Senate Health Committee approved the bill by a 5-2 vote in April. The bill is now in the hands of the California Senate Appropriations Committee.

Health Care for All – California, a group supporting the bill, hopes to get the Appropriations Committee to approve the bill at a hearing May 22; to get the bill to the state Senate floor by June 2; and to get the bill to the state Assembly bill by Sept. 15. Oct. 15 is the last day for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign or veto bills, according to the group.

The Players

Many nonprofit health coverage providers in California have supported implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and some supported pre-ACA efforts to require large California employers to provide health benefits or else pay a penalty.

S.B. 562 backers have attracted the support of California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, but they have not attracted the insurance organizations that have been supportive of the ACA, such as Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente or Molina Healthcare.

In addition to CAHU and individual health coverage providers, the list of California insurance industry organizations opposing S.B. 562 includes the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors of California; the California Association of Health Plans; the Association of California Life & Health Insurance Companies; and America’s Health Insurance Plans, according to a legislative analysis posted on California’s legislative tracking system.


Single-payer health care system supporters in another western state, Colorado, got a single-payer health care measure, Amendment 69, before the voters in November.

Voters in Colorado returned Michael Bennet, a Democrat, to the Senate, and they favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

Although Colorado voters backed Democratic candidates in the elections for federal offices, Amendment 69 received only about 20% of the votes cast.

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