California Assembly leader shelves single-payer health plan

By SOPHIA BOLLAG
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The prospects of a government-run health care system in California dimmed Friday when the leader of the state Assembly announced he doesn't plan to take up the single-payer bill this year.

Speaker Anthony Rendon called the bill "woefully incomplete."

"Even senators who voted for SB 562 noted there are potentially fatal flaws in the bill," the Los Angeles-area Democrat said in a statement.

The bill, which has passed the Senate, lays out a plan for a government-run health system in California, but it doesn't include a way to pay for it. Rendon said the bill also doesn't adequately address delivery of care and cost.

The bill has an estimated price tag of $400 billion per year. Paying for it would require new taxes and cooperation from President Donald Trump's administration to redirect existing federal money.

It would guarantee health care for all California residents and eliminate out-of-pocket costs for consumers, like copays and deductibles. The legislation was championed by the California Nurses Association and the Democratic Party's more liberal wing.

"We are disappointed that the robust debate about health care for all that started in the California Senate will not continue in the Assembly this year," Democratic Sens. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens and Toni Atkins of San Diego, the bill's authors, said in a statement. "This issue is not going away."

Rendon suggested the Senate draft a new version of the bill that addresses how to finance the plan and more clearly details how it would work. He also suggested the plan could be taken to voters in the form of a ballot measure. In the meantime, he said he would not advance the bill through the Assembly committee process.

"This action does not mean SB 562 is dead," Rendon said. "In fact, it leaves open the exact deep discussion and debate the senators who voted for SB 562 repeatedly said is needed."

The news comes amid uncertainty about whether Republicans in Washington will roll back much of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

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