Senate Banking Committee Approves Bill To Create Universal Health Care System
The Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee on Wednesday voted 7-4 to approve a bill (SB 840) that would create a universal health insurance system -- including a state agency, commissioner and medical board -- to negotiate fees, establish policy and pay claims, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Lawrence, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/7).
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), builds on a similar bill Kuehl introduced in 2003. That legislation passed the Senate but stalled in the Assembly (California Healthline, 2/25).
Trudi Hughes, a lobbyist for the California Chamber of Commerce, said, "This type of system is ripe for cost overruns, which would ultimately lead to higher taxes for all Californians."
However, Kuehl noted that the Lewin Group's study showed the legislation could save California $343.6 billion in health care costs over the next 10 years, primarily by reducing administrative costs and negotiating bulk purchasing contracts for prescription drugs and medical equipment. She said, "The claims that it is less efficient cannot be substantiated."
Sen. Jeff Denham (R-Modesto) warned that the bill could result in many doctors leaving California. He said, "We have a broken system today. Replacing it with another broken system makes no sense to me."
Kuehl responded that nurses and "doctors concerned about reimbursement" support her bill.
Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) said, "While I am sure there are problems with it, it does provide a quality of care so we don't have millions of senior citizens without health insurance."
Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City) added, "We could not screw [the state health system] up any more than it has been screwed up by a lot of business people."
The bill now moves to the Senate Health Committee for consideration (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/7).
KPBS's "KPBS News" on Wednesday reported on the reaction to the bill. The segment includes comments from Jerry Flanagan with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 4/6. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.