Senators provide details for proposed single payer health care system

A week after the House GOP pulled their ACA replacement bill, Californian senators continue to push for a single payer health care system.

Senators Richard Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) amended their bill The Healthy California Act to include details on how their proposed single payer health care system would be implemented.

While the amended bill still does not include any specific financial details, the bill does outline governance, eligibility and enrollment, benefits, delivery of care, and program standards.

The bill would establish The Health California Board, a nine member executive board which wouldn’t be affiliated with an agency or department. A public advisory committee, established by the Secretary of California Health and Human Services, would advise the board on policy matters as it works to implement the single payer system.

Every Californian resident, regardless of immigration status, would be eligible for the program. Members would not have to pay co-pays, deductibles, or premiums, however taxes could increase to help pay for the program. The program would cover all medical care determined to be medically appropriate by the member’s health care provider.

The state would be responsible for negotiate prices for services and prescriptions. Insurance companies would not be allowed to offer coverage for services already covered under Health California and are expected to lobby against the bill.

“California led the pack in expanding quality health care to millions of residents over the past four years; we cannot jeopardize our progress by hastily instituting a failed model during this time of uncertainty,” Charles Bacchi, president and CEO of the California Association of Health Plans, said in a statement.

While is it still unclear how much the program would cost, the bill says the state would seek waivers from the federal government to help offset the cost. It would also establish The Healthy California Trust Fund.

Governor Jerry Brown remains skeptical of the cost. “Where do you get the extra money?” Brown asked at a press conference. “This is called ‘the unknown by means of the more unknown. In other words, you take a problem, and say ‘I am going to solve it by something that’s…a bigger problem,’ which makes no sense.”

The bill’s authors argue that the bill will give Californians more choice under the one plan. Members would have access to a wider network of providers and would not need referrals to see any eligible provider.

“With Republican’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Californians really get what is at stake with their healthcare,” said Senator Lara in a press release. We have the change to make universal healthcare a reality now. It’s time to talk about how we get to healthcare for all that covers more and costs less.”

As House Republicans fail to agree on healthcare reform, states are taking matters into their own hands.

“The Affordable Care Act is still intact, and that is a good thing, but uncertainty remains, and we can’t afford to remain idle on healthcare,” said Senator Atkins. “The framework outlined in the Healthy California Act is the option that we need on the table to take our state forward and provide healthcare for everyone.”

The bill is currently in the Senate Rules Committee.