California is on the verge of being the first state to adopt single payer health coverage. The state legislature is considering a plan in which payroll taxes replace premiums, deductibles and co-pays as a funding mechanism for health insurance. This is how almost all other developed countries succeed in providing affordable coverage for everyone — and for about half as much as what Americans pay.
When this latest legislation is passed California will still have a few more legislative steps to take. This legislation declares the Legislature’s “intent” to pass a law that would “establish a comprehensive universal single-payer healthcare coverage program and a healthcare cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state.”
During the last few weeks, hundreds of California nurses and community activists rallied in favor of a bill that could make the state the first to launch a single-payer health care system.
They see this as a chance for the large state to show how a single-payer system can work and illustrate the necessity of providing universal health care coverage, according to Bonnie Castillo, the director of the Registered Nurse Response Network, a project of the union National Nurses United.
“We believe [health care is] a right and not a privilege,” she told ABC News. “We know at the federal level there is debate and quandary about what to do, and we know that this provides an opportunity in California to set a standard and a model for the nation.”
Supporters of the plan say the timing is right for this kind of legislation in the state, which has enormous influence, with a population of nearly 40 million people and the sixth-largest economy in the world. Health care coverage has been under added scrutiny as Republican leaders in Washington, D.C., have pledged to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, leaving many questions about the public’s options for health insurance.