Council throws support behind health care bill

© 2017-Register-Pajaronian

SB 562 remains in Assembly

WATSONVILLE — The Watsonville City Council approved a resolution Tuesday in support of Senate Bill 562, which, if passed, would pave the way for universal health care coverage in California.

The bill, introduced in February by Senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins, would create the “Healthy California” program, which would provide single-payer health care coverage for all residents of California.

All residents would be eligible to enroll in the government-run program and receive a “broad benefit package,” including services covered by Med-Cal and Medicare, according to an analysis by the Senate Rules Committee, and would not have to pay premiums.

To implement the program, the analysis estimates it will cost about $400 billion a year, with about $200 billion currently available in existing federal and state funding. The remaining $200 billion would have to be raised through taxes, and the anaylsis suggests a 15 percent payroll tax.

SB 562, which passed the state senate earlier this year, hit a road block in the Assembly in June, when Speaker Anthony Rendon decided that the bill would remain in the Assembly Rules Committee “until further notice.”

“SB 562 was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete,” Rendon said in a statement. “Even senators who voted for SB 562 noted there are potentially fatal flaws in the bill, including the fact it does not address many serious issues, such as financing, delivery of care, cost controls, or the realities of needed action by the Trump Administration and voters to make SB 562 a genuine piece of legislation.”

On Aug. 24, Rendon announced that the chairs of the Assembly Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage would hold hearings during the legislative interim to develop a plan for universal health care.

“It’s not a question of debating whether we move toward health care for all — it’s a matter of choosing how best and how soon,” Rendon said in a statement. “The committee’s work will help fill the void of due diligence that should have been done on SB 562 or any universal health care bill that so profoundly affects so many Californians.”

In a statement, Lara said the committee is an “important step.”

“The conversations I have had with my friend Speaker Anthony Rendon show he is committed to health care for all, and the Select Committee is a tangible product of that commitment,” he stated. “Having more legislators involved in hearing the healthcare stories of Californians will move this important debate forward.”

The resolution approved unanimously by the Watsonville City Council on consent agenda will be sent to a number of state officials, including Rendon and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Jennifer Holm, a nurse at Watsonville Community Hospital, said  single-payer health care would have a positive effect on every resident.

“We know that a single-payer system saves lives,” she said. “It is a viable solution.”

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the council ratified agreements between the city and two labor groups.

Under the agreement, city employees represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 521 will receive a four percent salary increase.

Employees represented by Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 will receive a three percent salary increase this year, two percent in 2018, and 3.75 percent in 2019.

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