Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s SB840, which would establish a universal health care system such as Medicare in California, passed the full Senate a few minutes ago on a 22-14 vote.
Health reform, and particularly a single-payer system, has become an annual crusade for Kuehl. This is the fifth time she has introduced the bill. Last year, the bill made it to the governor’s desk for the first time in history, but was vetoed. This year, health reform is playing on a statewide and national stage — thanks to the steady drumbeat of crusaders like Kuehl and other health advocates who are highlighting the unfair practices of insurance companies who deny care, change the rules and leave patients to get sicker and die.
SB840’s veto, however, was one reason, Republican Sen. Sam Aanestad, an oral surgeon, spoke against the bill. Not only does he not think the legislation is politically feasible, he defendedAmerica’s health care system as the best in the world, citing examples of people from countries with nationalized health systems that flee to the US to seek care.
The countries Aanestad referred to were England and Canada, where patients are given medical care based on priority, rather than ability to pay — which is the system in the United States. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), both Canada and the UK have higher life expectancies than Americans. Additionally, fewer babies die at birth in those countries than in the U.S. By contrast, the U.S. spends nearly twice as much as these countries on medical care. How does Aanestad explain that?
Sen. Joe Simitian, a Palo Alto Democrat, credited Kuehl with putting health reform at the forefront of the political conversation and voted for the bill, “whether or not I believe it is the best or only way..it’s an important way to advance the solution.”
In closing, the ever-eloquent Kuehl challenged assertions made by Aanestad. She cited two studies. One where 98% of Canadians would prefer to seek health care in their own country, rather than the U.S. The other that showed insured white men in England have better health outcomes than insured white men in the U.S.
She also took Aanestad’s “America-first” argument on a different spin: Medicare. Medicare is a single-payer system that is American and provides good and stable care to millions. That, she said, should be the goal.