Déjà vu Again for Single Payer Bill

Single payer system advocates are nothing if not persistent.

Twice before, in the past two legislative sessions, the state Legislature passed a law to establish a single payer system in California.

And twice before, the governor vetoed it.

The law is back on the docket, though. The bill, SB 810 by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would set up a health care system that essentially eliminates health insurance companies from the coverage equation.  It passed the Assembly, and this week it’s before the Senate appropriations committee, with hopes of getting a floor vote by the end of the month.

The thing is, even if it passes appropriations and then passes a Senate floor vote, everyone knows the governor will veto it. So doesn’t that make it a hard sell — to pass a bill there is almost no hope of seeing turned into law?

“You never know, some give us yes votes knowing it’ll be vetoed,” Don Bechler, chair of Single Payer Now, said.

In a way, he said, legislators can show support and at the same time not really commit to the single payer idea.

According to Bechler, advocates are aware they’re working for a bill that won’t see daylight. But they need it to pass now, he said, so the real battle can begin — the next legislative session, where the fourth time might be the charm.

“If we have a governor who might be more receptive to single payer, we’ll try to pass another bill,” Bechler said. “Then we’ll see who the real yes votes are next time.”

This time around, Bechler and other advocates want to build the movement. “So we can say this bill passed the California Legislature, that’s a strong energy boost for the movement,” he said.

No other state legislatures have approved single payer yet, Bechler said. “California clearly leads the way in this,” he said.

The other factor in the single payer bill’s favor is that it doesn’t spell out how the bill would be implemented and funded. That’s for the next bill, or for a ballot measure, if the governor ever signs this initial foray into the single payer concept.

The Assembly Committee on Appropriations meets today to consider the bill.

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