Calif. Lawmaker Crafts State-Run Health Care Plan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Reviving contentious health care reforms that have failed in the past, a California lawmaker on Friday said he’s seeking to establish a statewide single-payer health care system.

The proposal would dismantle California’s current health care policy and provide health insurance to everyone by replacing private insurance companies with a government-run model.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, says he’s carrying the California Healthy Act to hedge against President Donald Trump’s promise to repeal former President Barack Obama’s national health care law.

“We need to have this conversation now while hundreds of thousands of people are speaking out in support of health care,” Lara said in a statement. “With Republicans on the brink of rolling back health care it’s time for California to lead.”

Lara introduced Senate Bill 562 ahead of Friday’s legislative filing deadline, noting it’s still in the planning stages. The proposal will likely be improved and amended before being vetted this spring by the Senate Health Committee. A copy of the bill was not available Friday.

As proposed, Lara’s measure would task state regulators with negotiating and setting drug costs with the pharmaceutical industry. He says the Golden State’s bargaining power will play a major role in cutting “insurance company waste” and allow regulators to negotiate prescription and service costs for its 39 million residents.

The single-payer system would pool health care tax revenues into a publicly managed fund but still allow people to choose their own doctors, according to Lara.

No state currently uses a single-payer system, but California lawmakers have been kicking around the idea for decades. Voters rejected a universal health care initiative in 1994, and governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar single-payer proposals over funding concerns.

“I won’t jeopardize the economy of our state for such a purpose,” Schwarzenegger said in a 2006 veto message.

The latest single-payer proposal is again being sponsoring by the California Nurses Association along with state Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. Atkins says defending and improving California’s health care structure is critical because of uncertainty coming from Washington.

“In light of threats to the Affordable Care Act, it’s important that we look at all options to maintain and expand access to health care,” Atkins said in a statement.

In January, Lara cancelled a request for a federal waiver that would have allowed undocumented adult immigrants to purchase health insurance through California’s insurance exchange, Covered California.

“I am withdrawing the Health4All waiver request because I don’t trust the Trump administration to do what’s best for California and to implement the waiver in a way that protects people’s privacy and health,” Lara said of his decision.

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