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California Single-Payer Health Bill Shelved For Remainder Of Year

A supporter of SB 562. (Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
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Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced late Friday that he is stalling Senate Bill 562, a.k.a. the single-payer health bill for California, until further notice. In a statement, he mentions how the bill "was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete," namely that "it does not address many serious issues, such as financing, delivery of care, cost controls, or the realities of needed action by the Trump Administration and voters to make SB 562 a genuine piece of legislation."

SB 562 has been a rallying cry for California progressives in response to the Trump Administration's continued movement towards repealing the Affordable Care Act. As described in the L.A. Times, the bill means California "would have paid the healthcare costs for all residents, eliminating premiums, copays and deductibles that are common fixtures in the current healthcare system.

The bill, which was written by Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), passed the California Senate earlier this month. For a California bill to go in effect, it must pass in both houses of the state's legislative body: the Senate and the State Assembly. After passing the Senate, the bill transferred over to the Assembly Rules Committee, which, after reading the bill, would assign it to a policy committee. Speaker Rendon's decision to stall the bill means it will miss the July 14 deadline for a policy hearing, effectively shelving the bill for the remainder of this year. In his statement, though, Rendon explained how "this is the first year of a two-year session, [so] this action does not mean SB 562 is dead." He mentions how the Senate can re-work the bill and send it back to the Assembly once large concerns, like how to pay for the $330 to $400 billion price tag, had been addressed. He also cites the Campaign for a Healthy California's goal of placing a single-payer initiative on the ballot for November 2018.

Senators Lara and Atkins responded to Rendon with the following statement:

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“We are disappointed that the robust debate about healthcare for all that started in the California Senate will not continue in the Assembly this year. This issue is not going away, and millions of Californians are counting on their elected leaders to protect the health of their families and communities. “Continuing the push for universal healthcare has never been more critical with Congress possibly days from voting on one of the cruelest bills in our nation’s history, which will lead to millions of the poorest Americans losing insurance, soaring costs for older and sicker people, and terrible budget choices for our state.

“California has the chance to lead our nation toward healthcare for all, and we will not turn our backs on this matter of life or death for families.”

Governor Jerry Brown has expressed skepticism as SB 562 ramped up its support, addressing the difficulties of paying for the health care of a state as large and robust as California. In response to Rendon's statement, he said the action to stall the bill "made the case that there’s clearly more work to do before anyone is in a position to vote on revamping California’s healthcare system," according to the L.A. Times. The bill, even if the Assembly had decided to proceed with hearings this year, would have eventually made it to Governor Brown's desk, where he would either sign, approve without signing, or veto the bill.

Senator Bernie Sanders expressed his disappointment with Rendon's decision, urging voters to call and push the Assembly to move forward with the bill.