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Lawmakers Discuss State Run Health Care Program

Audio

Aired 4/20/09

The push to expand health care coverage to all Californians is being resuscitated. Democratic State Senator Mark Leno is behind the legislative effort this time. It's round three. Kelley Weiss reports.

Doctors, nurses, union leaders and lawmakers crowded around Senator Mark Leno as he touted the latest attempt for universal health care.

"It will save employers money, it will save employees money and it will save the state a considerable amount of money and it will provide not only universal coverage but quality, accessible health care for everyone," Leno said.

The same bill has passed the Legislature twice before. Both times Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it. He said the state couldn't afford it and he wouldn't support state run health care.

The measure calls for getting rid of the private health insurance system. Instead it proposes a "single payer" - meaning the state would be in charge of everyone's health benefits. Leno says under the bill, known as SB 810, both employees and employers would have to pay into the system. And, it would subsidize coverage for the poor and disabled.

Dr. Bill Durston is with the advocacy group, California Physicians' Alliance. He says a single payer system is long overdue.

"SB 810 will free us as physicians to focus on the reason we went into medicine in the first place, and that's to take care of patients, not to fill out billing forms," Durston said.

But most republicans are skeptical it would improve care. Linda Halderman is senior policy advisor for Republican State Senator Sam Aanestad (ON-ah-sted).

"Single payer is government controlled medicine. It probably makes more sense to let patients be in charge of their own health care, not bureaucrats in Washington or Sacramento," Halderman said.

Halderman also says a single payer system wouldn't save the state money. She said it would leave California billions of dollars in debt.

Senator Leno acknowledges when it comes to Republicans it'll be a tough sell. "Well we're not Pollyanna about this, we know that single payer will not be in California tomorrow," he said.

At the national level President Obama is also pushing health care reform. Though it's not a single payer system he wants to expand health coverage to kids and the uninsured. He also wants input from states, including California, about how to move forward.

Kelley Weiss, Capital Public Radio News.
In Sacramento, I'm Kelley Weiss.

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