A proposal to replace private insurance with government-funded health care for all moved forward in California Wednesday as Democrats on the Senate Health Committee voted to advance the measure.
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The single-payer approach is backed by two Democratic Senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins and the state's powerful nursing union, but faces an uphill battle, the Associated Press reported.
The proposal would guarantee coverage with no out-of-pocket expenses for all residents of the state, including those in the country illegally. A state agency would set prices and contract with doctors, hospitals and other health care providers and pay all patients' bills.
Private insurers would not be allowed to cover the same services, essentially removing them from the marketplace, the AP reported.
"It is time to say once and for all that health care is a right, not a privilege for those who can afford it," Lara said.
The major revamp of the health care system of the nation's most populous state is getting another look as the Trump administration and federal Republicans seek to replace former President Barack Obama's health care law, the AP reported.
However, it's not clear where money for the single-payer system would come from. Last year, health spending in California was more than $367 billion, according to the Center for Health Policy Research at University of California, Los Angeles.
A study of the costs and possible funding methods was commissioned by the California Nurses Association and will be ready before the proposal goes to the next committee later this year, according to spokesman Chuck Idelson, the AP reported.
The measure is opposed by health plans, business groups and employers, who say it would require huge tax increases and create long wait times for patients to see a doctor. They say the state should instead remain focused on implementing Obama's health care law, which has significantly reduced the number of uninsured people in California.
Tax increases required to find the single-payer program would have to be approved by two-thirds of the Assembly and Senate. Even if the bill is approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, it would require cooperation from the Trump administration to waive rules about federal Medicare and Medicaid dollars, the AP reported.
A single-payer system approved by California legislators in 2007 was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A proposal for a single-payer system in Vermont was abandoned after cost estimates came in high. Last year, voters in Colorado rejected a ballot measure to create a single-payer system.
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