Health­care bill stalls in Assem­bly

Speaker Ren­don will not ad­vance Se­nate’s sin­gle-payer mea­sure to a hear­ing, call­ing it ‘woe­fully in­com­plete.’

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Me­lanie Ma­son

SACRA­MENTO — A high-pro­file ef­fort to es­tab­lish a sin­gle-payer health­care sys­tem in Cal­i­for­nia sput­tered Friday when Assem­bly Speaker An­thony Ren­don (D-Para­mount) de­cided to shelve the pro­posal.

Ren­don an­nounced late Friday af­ter­noon that the bill, Se­nate Bill 562 by state Sens. Ri­cardo Lara (D-Bell Gar­dens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would not ad­vance to a pol­icy hear­ing in his house, mak­ing it all but cer­tain the mea­sure will not be acted upon this year.

“SB 562 was sent to the Assem­bly woe­fully in­com­plete,” Ren­don said in a state­ment. “Even se­na­tors who voted for SB 562 noted there are po­ten­tially fa­tal flaws in the bill, in­clud­ing the fact it does not ad­dress many se­ri­ous is­sues, such as fi­nanc­ing, de­liv­ery of care, cost con­trols, or the re­al­i­ties of needed ac­tion by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and vot­ers to make SB 562 a gen­uine piece of leg­is­la­tion.”

Un­der the mea­sure, Cal­i­for­nia would have paid the health­care costs for all res­i­dents, elim­i­nat­ing pre­mi­ums, co-pays and de­ductibles that are com­mon fix­tures in the cur­rent health­care sys­tem.

Sev­eral key de­tails were un­re­solved in the mea­sure — most sig­nif­i­cantly how to pay for it. The pro­gram, which car­ried an es­ti­mated price tag of $330 bil­lion to $400 bil­lion, would have re­quired new taxes to pay for it, but no sources of tax revenue were spec­i­fied in the leg­is­la­tion.

Lara and Atkins said in a state­ment they were “dis­ap­pointed that the ro­bust de­bate about health­care for all

that started in the Cal­i­for­nia Se­nate will not con­tinue in the Assem­bly this year.”

Ren­don took pains to note that his ac­tion does not kill the bill en­tirely: Be­cause it is the first year of a twoyear ses­sion, it could be re­vived next year.

“The Se­nate can use that time to fill the holes in SB 562 and pass and send to the Assem­bly work­able leg­is­la­tion that ad­dresses fi­nanc­ing, de­liv­ery of care and cost con­trol,” he said.

But the move is none­the­less a ma­jor set­back for leg­is­la­tion that has elec­tri­fied the Demo­cratic Party’s pro­gres­sive flank. Ad­vo­cates led by the Cal­i­for­nia Nurses Assn. and ac­tivists en­er­gized by Sen. Bernie San­ders’ 2016 presidential run have ral­lied to sup­port the mea­sure, even dis­rupt­ing Ren­don’s ad­dress at the state party con­ven­tion last month to clamor for at­ten­tion for the bill.

The nurses’ union flayed Ren­don for his de­ci­sion to shelve the bill, call­ing the move “a cow­ardly act.”

“The peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia are count­ing on the Leg­is­la­ture to pro­tect them now, not some­time next year, and as polls have shown Cal­i­for­ni­ans sup­port this pro­posal by a wide ma­jor­ity,” said Deborah Burger, co-pres­i­dent of the la­bor group. “A solution to this health­care emergency could be at hand; Speaker Ren­don is stand­ing in op­po­si­tion.”

The ef­fort faced a steep up­hill climb from the start. Gov. Jerry Brown sig­naled he was wary of the pro­gram’s high price tag. And the pro­posal would have re­quired clear­ing a num­ber of hur­dles even if it be­came law, in­clud­ing ap­proval by vot­ers and the bless­ing of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­pur­pose fed­eral health­care funds.

Although the Se­nate approved the mea­sure this month on a 23-14 vote, some Democrats who voted in fa­vor of it ex­pressed reser­va­tions about sup­port­ing the bill in its cur­rent form.

Brown said in a state­ment Friday that Ren­don “made the case that there’s clearly more work to do be­fore any­one is in a po­si­tion to vote on re­vamp­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s health­care sys­tem.

“I rec­og­nize the tremen­dous ex­cite­ment behind the mea­sure, but ba­sic and fun­da­men­tal ques­tions remain unan­swered.”

Repub­li­cans, who were uni­ver­sally op­posed to the leg­is­la­tion, also agreed with Ren­don’s move.

“Speaker Ren­don says that SB 562 is ‘woe­fully in­com­plete.’ Cal­i­for­nia State Se­nate Repub­li­cans agree,” Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Pa­tri­cia Bates (R-La­guna Nigel) said in a state­ment.

Some Assem­bly Democrats vowed to con­tinue to press the is­sue.

“Health­care is a right, not a priv­i­lege. That’s why I’m a co-au­thor of #SB562 and will con­tinue to fight un­til it is law in Cal­i­for­nia,” Assem­bly­man Kevin McCarty (DSacra­mento) said on Twit­ter.

Pri­vately, many Assem­bly Democrats said they dreaded hav­ing to vote on the bill, fear­ful of back­ing a pro­posal with no fi­nanc­ing behind it or po­lit­i­cally risky tax hikes.

The push for sin­gle-payer health­care in Cal­i­for­nia is un­likely to dis­ap­pear com­pletely. Ren­don noted that pro­po­nents would prob­a­bly pur­sue a bal­lot ini­tia­tive to win voter ap­proval.

Burger also vowed to con­tinue the ef­fort.

“Thou­sands of Cal­i­for­ni­ans have been in mo­tion for guar­an­teed health­care,” she said. “They are not fin­ished.”

Brian van der Brug Los Angeles Times

A S S E M B LY Speaker An­thony Ren­don said the sin­gle-payer leg­is­la­tion has “po­ten­tially fa­tal flaws,” in­clud­ing a fail­ure to ad­dress fi­nanc­ing or cost con­trols.

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