Crucial Day in Sacramento: Assembly Votes on Universal Health Care

— via the California Progress Report

By Frank Russo

Senate Bill 840 by Senator Sheila Kuehl, a historic universal health care, single payer system proposal, will be voted on by the Assembly. A last minute press conference by Fabian Nunez, the Speaker of the Assembly and Senate President pro Tem Don Perata along with Senator Kuehl and others is scheduled for 10 a.m. to give it an extra push. It would cover all California residents for a comprehensive range of medical costs, including dental care, prescriptions, mental health care and hospitalization and give patients the right to choose their own doctor.

It has the support of over 475 organizations as well as 15 cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. It has drawn heavy opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce and other powerful interests in the state. It should pass the Assembly on what may be a narrow vote and have clearer sailing in the State Senate where it was approved 25 to 15 in May. If it is any indication of what is to come, the Assembly defeated by a 46 to 28 vote margin an attempt by Republican Assemblymember Aghazarian to put hostile amendments into the bill on Thursday.

Senator Kuehl and others are already looking ahead to what may be the biggest obstacle of all—getting Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the bill. There is a rally scheduled for Wednesday in the Capitol to tell the Governor to “do the right thing” and sign this bill into law. Most observers expect a veto. If it does become law, it would California would be a leader in the nation for what may become a single payer plan for the nation, cutting out much of the 25% or more that is taken by insurance carriers and the expensive paperwork that medical providers must process.

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