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California panel rejects government-run health care

FILE - In this June 28, 2017 file photo, members of the California Nurses Association and supporters rally on the second floor rotunda at the Capitol calling for a single-payer health plan in Sacramento, Calif. A panel created by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon to study improvements to California's health care system rejected adopting single-payer in a report released Tuesday, March 13, 2018, but said the Legislature could hire new staff to develop a long-term plan for government-run health care. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Rich Pedroncelli

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — In a story March 13 about a report on health care by a California Assembly committee, The Associated Press reported erroneously the sequence of events that led to the report. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon called for committee hearings after shelving a single-payer health care bill. The committee had been previously created.

A corrected version of the story is below:

California panel rejects government-run health care

State lawmakers studying improvements to California's health care system are rejecting a plan popular with Democratic activists to give everyone in the state government-funded health care


Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — State lawmakers studying improvements to California's health care system on Tuesday rejected on a plan popular with Democratic activists to give everyone in the state government-funded health care, saying a "single-payer" plan would need extensive work to become viable.

The lawmakers instead released a report recommending a variety of ways to lower health care costs and reduce the ranks of the uninsured. It said creating government-run health care would be a long-term endeavor requiring new money and legislative staff and that such a plan would likely require approval from California voters and Congress.

Single-payer health care has become a rallying cry for many on the left, who have advocated for lawmakers to quickly boot health insurance companies from California. Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon angered backers of such a plan last year when he shelved a single-payer bill, SB562, which he called woefully incomplete. It's poised to be a flashpoint in the race for governor among the Democratic candidates.

The report was prepared by two University of California professors and a private consultant at the behest of an Assembly committee created last year by Rendon. The speaker called for hearings following pressure from critics after he derided the single-payer bill for lacking a way to cover the $400 billion cost.

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In the short-term, the report suggests creating a publicly run option for low-income patients on Medi-Cal, extending Medi-Cal to cover people living in the country illegally, fining people who don't have insurance coverage and collecting all health claims in a database to improve transparency and coordination.

"The report outlines some options for us to consider that will help increase access and affordability," Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, a Fresno Democrat who was the committee's co-chairman, said in a statement. "This will allow us to make some immediate changes to expand coverage while we pursue long-term solutions."

The report angered the California Nurses Association, which developed SB562 and led protests of Rendon at the Capitol. Executive Director Bonnie Castillo called the report a "public disservice" and said the solutions it proposes "do nothing to address the cost crisis, other than provide political cover to politicians entering a political season who want to avoid the real solution, guaranteed health care for all, as proposed by SB 562."

The nurses have suggested funding the program through a combination of existing state and federal health care funds, payroll taxes and a sales tax.

Researchers noted several obstacles to advancing single-payer at the state level. California would need for federal waivers — potentially including an act of Congress — to use Medicare and Medi-Cal funds. State voters would need to approve tax hikes to get around a requirement nearly half of state revenue goes to education. And because the state can't run deficits, the system would need robust reserves to cover cost spikes or revenue shortfalls.

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