California State Senate
Bill Number: SB 921
February 21, 2003
SB 921, as introduced, Kuehl (Sen. Sheila Kuehl). Single payer health care coverage.
This bill would establish the California Health Care System to be administered by the newly created Health Care Agency under the control of an elected Health Care Commissioner. The bill would make all California residents eligible for specified health care benefits under the California Health Care System, which would, on a single-payer basis, negotiate for or set fees for health care services provided through the system and pay claims for those services.
Comment: Sen. Kuehl’s bill is based on the findings of the California Health Care Options Project which demonstrated that all residents of Californian could have affordable, comprehensive health care coverage merely by eliminating the administrative excesses of the current system and establishing a single, publicly administered payer for health care services.
Sen. John Burton is also introducing a pay-or-play employer mandate which apparently is receiving the support of AFL-CIO and the California Medical Association.
Another measure (AB 30, Richman) would “reduce state funding for county hospitals and safety net providers” and transfer those funds to the Medicaid and SCHIP programs. Another proposal (AB 293, Daucher) would allow small businesses to provide insurance to employees working a minimum of 40 hours per week, using an hour of overtime to help pay for health care coverage.
Obviously, the debate in California will be between single payer and an employer mandate. Although the leadership of AFL-CIO and CMA may be attracted to the “politically feasible” employer mandate model, union members and physicians need to take a careful look at both proposals. They will see that the single payer program will not only provide greater benefit for all patients in California, but it will also provide greater benefit for union members and physicians. Union members will have greater health and financial security, and physicians will have freedom and the resources to provide the care that their patients need.