California health care bill would initiate single-payer reform

The national debate over health care can be summed up in a bill being debated in Sacramento.

Supporters of Senate Bill 810 say the legislation would be the only way to provide medical coverage for every Californian.

Opponents deride the measure as socialized medicine.

The California Universal Healthcare Act was introduced by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. The bill would initiate single-payer universal health care for the state of California, Leno said. "What that means in short is Medicare for all," he said.

Supporter Keith Ensminger, a Merced resident and owner of Kramer Translations, said the largest benefit of the legislation probably would be that it would include everyone. "Everybody would have insurance, regardless of their income and regardless of their position in life," he said. "One of the bigger benefits for us is that nobody in the Central Valley would be required to remain poor for Medi-Cal. They would still have their insurance paid."

A high percentage of Central Valley residents are on Medi-Cal.

There would be other positive effects from the bill, said Ensminger, who's a member of Health Care for All, a statewide organization that helped developed the bill. It would lower the cost of insurance for most people, everybody in the state would have a health insurance plan and it would aid people in having medical conditions treated early rather than waiting.

In addition, it would prevent medical bankruptcies, he said.

Dr. Bill Skeen, executive director of the California's chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, said the organization supports the legislation because it's the only way of providing coverage for everyone and controlling the skyrocketing costs of the health care system. The organization advocates for a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program. "I think it would be a win-win situation for almost everyone," he said.

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