Single Payer 2 Votes Short in Senate

The idea of a single-payer health care system in California stalled on the Senate floor yesterday, falling two votes short of passage.

Reconsideration of the bill was granted, though, so proponents of SB 810 by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) have until Tuesday to reintroduce the bill. First they will have to come up with two big votes. The bill failed on a 19-15 vote.

“We don’t want to follow the path of Europe, where the economy is in trouble, where the Euro is failing,” Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) said. “It’s not the example we should follow. We don’t have the money. I don’t know where the money’s going to come from.”

Gaines also pointed out that California, when compared with nations, has slipped to ninth in economic ranking. Bill author Leno had an answer for that one: “Those other eight economies larger than ours, they all have health care that costs them a lot less than ours does. Maybe we’re missing something here.”

All Republicans present voted against the bill. The abstention of four moderate Democrats and one Democrat’s “No” vote turned the political tide on single payer, proponents said.

The idea of universal coverage has been passed by the Legislature before. In 2007 and 2009, both houses approved the idea, only to have it vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. Last year, it passed the Senate and stalled when it was not brought to the floor in the Assembly.

In yesterday’s Senate discussion, Joseph Simitian (D-Santa Clara) said he had some reservations about the bill but felt it was too important an issue to dismiss.

“I sometimes think we have the wrong debate on the Senate floor,” Simitian said. “The fundamental question is: Does every Californian have the right to access quality, affordable health care? I will be casting an aye vote today, because I believe every Californian should have that, everyone should get quality, affordable health care in California.”

If the bill is reintroduced by Tuesday and it gets 21 votes on the Senate floor, it would move to the Assembly.

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