California’s Universal Healthcare Bill Gets New Life in Assembly Select Committee

Mayor Robert Garcia speaks to supporters of Senate Bill 562 in a rally at Harvey Milk Park in February. Photo: Jason Ruiz.

Just months after critics said California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon killed the state’s efforts to create a universal healthcare system Rendon announced today the formation of a committee with the intention to “get to yes” on health care for all.

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The Speaker’s announcement comes just months after his action to park the bill—SB 562, the number paying homage to the area code of co-author Senator Ricardo Lara’s home district—in the Assembly’s rule committee, noting that it was “woefully incomplete” and that it did not address key issues like financing, cost controls and delivery of care.

On Thursday, Rendon’s office issued a statement announcing that the universal healthcare discussion was back on in California with the Assembly Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage to hold hearings to develop plans for achieving universal healthcare in California.


 

“The fight to protect the Affordable Care Act helped galvanize the principle that healthcare is a basic right,” Rendon said in the statement. “There are several different approaches being proposed, including Medicare for all, single payer, hybrid systems and ACA expansion. I have called for these hearings to determine what approach best gets us there—what gets us to ‘yes’ when it comes to health care for all.”

Rendon said the due diligence lacking in the bill’s current form will be provided by the committee and its chairs Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) and Dr. Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg). He promised that the hearings aren’t meant to rehash old material, but to advance the legislation toward something that can be seriously implemented.

The idea of a universal system in California in its current iteration was introduced by Lara and State Senator Tony Atkins in February with Lara hosting a rally at Harvey Milk Park the first week it was introduced. It was propelled to the Assembly despite differing views on the financial impact it would have on the state.

Critics of the plan said that there were many holes in the legislation and that it would cost over $400 billion to implement. However, a separate national analysis released in June showed that it could save Californians about $34 billion annually. Later that month Rendon made the decision to stall further action on the bill “until further notice”.


 

That lasted about two months.

Lara, who represents the state’s 33rd District which includes Long Beach, said that the select committee is an important step toward a bicameral discussion and that having more legislators hearing the stories of Californians will only move the debate forward.

“Americans’ healthcare is under continual assault by Congress, and millions of Californians are still paying too much for healthcare that doesn’t cover enough,” Lara said in response to Rendon’s announcement. “Now is the time for California to lead on healthcare, and I look forward to working with the Speaker and Assembly colleagues to shape the future of universal healthcare.”



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