The Senate Health Committee met today, this was the last opportunity for health bills from the Senate to move forward.
Supporters of SB810 (Leno) packed the hearing room to show their support for a single-payer universal health care system. This measure is a successor to previous bills (SB840) by former Senator Kuehl that were vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006 and 2008.
In presenting the bill, Senator Leno explained the 3 main benefits of the bill would be:
1. lowering premiums – which would attract employers to the state and create new jobs
2. lower administrative costs – which would benefit providers
3. lower premiums – which would make coverage more affordable for consumers
Witnesses testified of the tremendous cost savings that the state could realize if we could reduce non health care related spending from over 30% to 5% of total healthcare spending that the single payer system promises.
Some concerns were expressed about potential conflicts with the implementation of federal health reform (mostly by opponents of SB810 that had also been opponents of the Affordable Care Act), but Senator Leno stated that he believed the efforts were complementary. He suggested that if SB810 pass in this 2011-12 session, there would likely be another fight at the ballot, either by a referendum by opponents or the need to voters to approve the financing, likely in 2014. It would be appropriate to continue the implementation of the ACA and coverage expansions in 2014, as the state in 2015 is able to prepare financing and apply for the federal permissions that are available under the federal law in 2017, and perhaps sooner. Leno also cited that Vermont has passed a similar bill to kick-start a process toward single-payer, and its Senators are seeking a bill to allow for such a federal waiver earlier.
A long line of supporters traveled from all corners of the state to testify in support of the bill, and it passed out of committee with 5 Aye votes.
The committee also heard SB615 (Calderon), to which Health Access and other consumer and community groups were previously opposed, but the author and committee had adopted a number of the amendments that removed such opposition. The bill now no longer restricts the field of individuals who can help people get coverage to licensed brokers. The bill now simply creates a standard of training that would apply to anyone selling certain health plans. SB615 received unanimous support in its amended form.
And now all the health bills that will be moving forward this year, including those passed in previous weeks, are off to Appropriations Committee. If they survive that committee, they will be up for vote on the floor of their house of origin (Senate bills on the Senate floor and Assembly bills on the Assembly floor), and if they survive that process, will move through the same process in the second house.