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Major Advance for Healthcare Reform as Senate Passes Medicare for All Legislation

Press Release, 1/28/10

For Immediate Release
January 28, 2010

New Energy for Healthcare Reform After National Bills Stall

To ecstatic applause from healthcare advocates, the California Senate today breathed new life into national prospects for fundamental health reform by passing on a 22 to 14 vote a major bill to guarantee healthcare in the state through creating a Medicare for all system that would cover every Californian. 

SB 810, The California Universal Healthcare Act, authored by Sen. Mark Leno and sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU), with broad support among many healthcare, community, and labor groups, will now proceed to a vote by the Assembly, which has passed similar legislation in the past.  The bill would establish a single-payer system in California, modeled on the healthcare systems flourishing in virtually all other industrialized nations, where better patient outcomes are achieved at a fraction of the cost of the U.S. system.

“It is unclear what the prospects are for health reform at the national level,” said CNA co-president Geri Jenkins, RN, “but this vote offers California the chance to chart a new course for the nation.  SB 810 will guarantee healthcare for every family through a humane system that controls costs and allows patients and their doctors--not insurance agents--to make decisions about healthcare,” said Jenkins.  “People will pay less, and no longer be denied care based on their income, age, location, or pre-existing health conditions.”

Noting during the floor debate that, “consistently 59 per cent of California voters say yes” they want a Medicare for all system in the state, Sen. Leno added that single-payer is not just a bill for a humane health system, but also a jobs program for a state that desperately needs one: “We can’t compete in a global marketplace where all our competitors have had the government take the burden of healthcare off the shoulders of their employers….as we move towards single-payer in this state, and have better universal coverage, this will attract employers to California.  We are already underwater in our healthcare system.  We can’t keep up.”

Referring to opposition arguments about supposed ballooning costs under the bill, Sen. Leno pointed out that a single payer system would simply redirect current spending on healthcare, away from insurance overhead and towards a more direct and efficient way of providing care.  Additionally the bill would not go into effect immediately; the current SB 810 creates a system to propose revenue streams that would then go back to the legislature for final review.

Medicare for all or “single-payer” healthcare reforms, such as SB 810, would help create the kind of quality jobs so urgently needed today, and do so while providing a huge economic stimulus. A CNA/NNU study last year documented that national single-payer reform would generate 2.6 million jobs and $317 billion in additional business and public revenues.  Further, CNA/NNU research last year found that six of California’s largest insurance companies reject more than one-fifth of all claims, an experience many California patients know all too well.

California is one of more than half a dozen states with similar state legislation this year, indicative of the desire for healthcare solutions by states no matter what happens at the federal level. Among major supporters of SB 810 are the California School Employees Association, California Physician Alliance, OneCare, and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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