When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

With all the attention on the financing details of the legislative leader proposals, we shouldn’t ignore the universal health care proposal, SB840(Kuehl), and the attention it has been getting.

There was a good article by Tom Chorneau in the San Francisco Chronicle about the continuing effort. Senator Kuehl says that she plans to put her bill on the Governor’s desk, but it might be in 2008, regardless of what happens this year with the other proposals.

I think Steve Maviglio at the California Majority Report mis-read the article. Kuehl was quoted as saying, “People might say, why are you doing this if we passed that other bill? And I’ll say I still think this is the better answer,” said Kuehl. “This is will not go away because someone passed a half-assed bill.” Unlike Maviglio, I don’t think she was referring to the Nunez bill or the Perata bill–the latter of which she voted for and is a co-author.

She *has* been a critic of the Schwarzenegger proposal–and rightfully so, in our opinion. There are components that don’t meet the “do no harm” test that we share with Senator Kuehl. And we agree with her about being vigilant about whatever comes out of the negotiation between the legislative leaders and the Governor.

She is also right that whatever passes and is signed this year–even if it is really good–will probably not be truly universal, and there will be room for improvement. Last year, California passed a global warming bill. It didn’t stop the conversation—it increased interest. There are dozens of new bills on the subject. A health care bill this year—even a good one—will not stop the momentum. (This dday post at Calitics makes the same point.)

Maviglio is right about the opportunity we have this year—to provide security and affordability for those who have coverage, to dramatically expand it for those that don’t, to take several steps toward the goal of universal coverage. Yet he falls into the construct he criticizes.

There’s no conflict between advocating for the vision of a universal single-payer system, and working for positive reforms in this year’s debate–in fact, it is strategic. For the last four years, many advocates and groups have advocated on multiple tracks, supporting a range of health reforms, from expanded children’s coverage to an minimum employer contribution to single-payer. There’s no need to attack one reform in order to promote another–in fact, it can be counterproductive.

It’s good we have an active leader like Senator Kuehl, promoting the vision of a truly universal system. It helps the debate to have SB840 on the table. It’s also good that she is supporting and playing an active role in helping shape the legislative leadership proposals to see what we can win this year, toward the goal of quality, affordable health care for all.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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