LOS ANGELES — On the same weekend that California took its first steps toward universal health care, the state’s top three Democratic candidates for the Senate emphasized that the issue remains part of the health care debate. emphasized.
Although the issue has stalled at the federal level, the push for single-payer health care continues to resonate as a Democratic campaign issue. Supporters of a unified health care system are primarily rallying behind Medicare for All, the federal government’s initiative to provide tax dollars for medically necessary care for U.S. residents.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (R-Vt.), the biggest proponent in Congress of Medicare for All, held his last congressional hearing on the policy in May 2022 while serving as Senate Budget Committee chairman. . However, the hearings did not bring new momentum to the bill and functioned primarily as a forum for partisan debate. President Joe Biden campaigned for a public option health care system but has resisted supporting Medicare for All.
But state-level action continues.
On Saturday, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed SB 770, legislation that begins the process of securing a statewide single-payer health care system. This is the first time such a move has been made by a state.
Universal health coverage, which guarantees no one is left uninsured, can take multiple forms. Under a single-payer system, one entity would pay all costs. Medicare for All refers to a specific federal single-payer plan that some Democratic lawmakers are pushing for.
The legislation directs the Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency to work with federal partners to promote a unified health care financing system. The agency must submit an interim report by January 2025, a federal exemption framework by June 2025, and a final framework for state leaders by November 2025.
This schedule would pave the way for a final waiver to be submitted for federal approval in 2026. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, a former California congressman and state attorney general, is a longtime supporter of single-payer health care.
On Sunday, Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam B. Schiff, the front-runners in next year’s highly competitive California Senate race, announced their support for federal universal health care during the national referendum period. reiterated support for Medicare for All as the preferred path forward. Medical workers union meeting.
But they stopped short of criticizing California’s individual efforts.
Medicare for All “frankly is not going to replace California’s efforts because the federal government is likely going to take much longer than the states,” Schiff said.
“I think there is value in making each state a single-payer advanced institute, and I strongly support that,” he added.
During Sunday’s forum, conference attendees praised California’s new law. The union is expected to formally endorse one of the three candidates on Wednesday.
Still, California’s state-led approach faces pushback from the largest nurses’ union and others, which are calling for a more inclusive approach. medical insurer group It opposes efforts to eliminate private insurance options.
Sandy Redding, president of the California Nursing Association, called the law “a complete betrayal of nurses’ fight for single-payer health care policy” and called Newsom’s decision to sign the bill “purely political.” “Lack of courage.” The California Nurses Association, a division of National Nurses United, represents her 100,000 members in California.
Some advocates argue whether state-based solutions to universal health coverage should be pursued, or whether federal action could later prevent state-led systems from moving forward at a faster pace. Opinions are divided.
At least four states have already introduced public options. This is a more tiered approach to government-run health insurance than single-payer health care, allowing residents to choose between enrolling in government-funded health care programs or continuing with private insurance. It is something to do.
Washington state, Colorado, Minnesota, and Nevada have all enacted laws creating modified public options. Unlike the traditional concept of a government-run public option, these three states partnered with private carriers to offer public option-style plans.
Several other states, including New Mexico and Connecticut, considered but did not pass legislation to create a public option.
“I don’t support a public option or a phased approach. I support Medicare for All, but if I arrive in Congress and hold the gavel as a Democrat and I don’t support a public option or a phased approach, I don’t support Medicare for All. I’m disappointed that we had the ability to pass and vote on Medicare for the United States and we didn’t do it. That’s it,” Porter said Sunday.
Lee said he introduced one of the earliest single-payer bills in the 1990s when he was a California state legislator.
“I’m very pleased that the governor signed this into law. California is once again in the lead,” said Lee, who, as a member of the House Medicare for All Caucus, is pushing the debate further. He said he would like to establish a sister caucus in the Senate to do so.
Mr. Lee and Mr. Schiff both said they advocated a public option during negotiations that preceded the passage of the 2010 health care law. The law does not include a public option, but it does give states the power to seek federal approval to move to a single-payer system through a so-called Section 1332 waiver.
“We just couldn’t get it right now,” Schiff said of the federal public option.
“But we need to pass Medicare for All, and as we fight to make it happen, we need to support single-payer efforts like those in California.”
Ariel Cohen contributed to this report.