By Len Feldman
CTA and its allies have won a major battle in the state Capitol that is moving vital co-sponsored legislation one step closer to enactment.
With the help of its allies in education, labor, and the business community, CTA has secured the approval of the Senate Health Committee for SB 810, by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). The measure would implement a comprehensive health care reform plan aimed at ensuring affordable coverage to all Californians.
The bill would help reduce the number of children whose family have no health care protections, and it would help drive down the skyrocketing costs of health care benefits that have hit working Californians very hard.
With many provisions identical to those in an earlier universal health care measure — SB 840 by former Sen. Sheila Kuehl — SB 810 would create a California Healthcare System relying largely on the $200 billion spent within the state annually on public and private health care programs.
SB 810 would provide a complete range of services — including medical, dental, and vision. Under terms of the bill, the state would act as the "single-payer" authority, negotiating for bulk purchases at reduced costs for medications and services.
The measure would create a new commissioner, whose job would include securing all needed regulatory or legislative changes necessary to redirect current federal, state, and local health care payments to the California Healthcare System. The new system would become responsible for underwriting all benefits and services.
The bill also creates a special commission responsible for developing a financing mechanism.
Despite a long list of supporters, the bill's author faced withering cross-examination from several Republican members of the committee, who charged that the costs for the health care system would outstrip the available revenue.
Sen. Leno and witnesses effectively rebutted the assertions, noting that the system would, among other things, garner savings by allowing all residents to secure needed care at rates much lower than those of emergency and trauma centers. These expensive emergency facilities are now treating the uninsured.
SB 810 is expected to reach the Senate floor soon. The Senate's approval would send the bill to the Assembly for action.
To help pass this bill, get in touch with your state senator and Assembly member.