Single-Payer Debate Resurges in California Capitol, as Opposition From Health Providers Ramps Up

January 23, 2018

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Source: Los Angeles Times

The political battle lines over single-payer healthcare in California are growing starker, with an alliance of doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners and other health providers ramping up their opposition to the proposal.

In a letter to legislators, the coalition, unveiled Wednesday, blasted Senate Bill 562 as a proposal that “would dismantle the healthcare marketplace and destabilize California’s economy.”

The emergence of heavy-hitting healthcare groups such as the California Medical Assn., the California Dental Assn. and the California Pharmacists Assn. signals an escalation in the opposition to the legislation, under which the state would foot the bill for nearly all medical expenses of its residents. Up until now, the measure was primarily opposed by health plans and business groups. One member of the new coalition, Kaiser Permanente, has been vocal in its opposition to the bill for months, but the group’s other members have so far been muted in their criticism.

They’re squaring off against the ardent backers of the legislation, including the progressive flank of the Democratic Party and the California Nurses Assn., the bill’s sponsors. The nurses’ group will hold a Capitol rally on Wednesday to call for the bill, currently shelved in the Assembly, to move forward.

“There should be a sense of urgency on the part of every member of the California Legislature to do their job,” said Chuck Idelson, spokesman for the nurses’ union. “We cannot afford to continue to wait. They have to act. If they have issues with that bill, they should address them.”

The rally comes in advance of an informational hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon on California’s healthcare system. It is the third in a series of hearings convened by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) to discuss how to achieve universal healthcare in California.

SB 562 backers were especially irked by recent comments by Rendon, who told reporters earlier this month that “absolutely nothing has happened with the bill.”

“The sponsors of the bill have sat on their hands and done nothing for the past six months,” Rendon said. “None of the authors have made any significant amendments.”

Idelson disputed that characterization and said his group had presented potential changes to Rendon’s office.

“He’s attacking us because he’s not willing to do his job,” Idelson said. “That raises the question of his own integrity — it’s sadly missing.”

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