Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont lashed out Saturday at California Democrats for shelving an ambitious single-payer health care bill and them to vote on the legislation, which is estimated to cost $400 billion per year.
California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced Friday that Senate Bill 562 had been pulled indefinitely because it “does not address many serious issues,” including “financing, delivery of care, [and] cost controls.”
Mr. Rendon left open the possibility that the measure could be reconsidered, noting that this is the first year of the two-year legislative session, but Mr. Sanders called on him to allow a floor vote.
“I am extremely disappointed that the speaker of the California Assembly is refusing to allow S.B. 562, the single payer health care bill passed by the state Senate, to come to the Assembly floor for a vote,” Mr. Sanders said on Twitter.
He asked supporters to contact Mr. Rendon. “California has the opportunity to lead this nation in a very different health care direction,” Mr. Sanders said.
“If the great state of California has the courage to take on the greed of the insurance companies and the drug companies, the rest of the country will follow,” he said. “The eyes of the country are on California today. Let’s go forward.”
Progressives have placed single-payer health care at the top of its agenda, but support for the universal health care measure cooled after a legislative analysis last month placed the annual cost at $400 billion, more than twice the size of the state budget.
At least $200 billion of the total would have to be raised with tax hikes, according to the analysis, such as a 15 percent payroll tax on employers.
“As someone who has long been a supporter of single payer, I am encouraged by the conversation begun by Senate Bill 562,” Mr. Rendon said in his statement. “However, SB 562 was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete.”
Progressives blasted the decision. The California Nurses Association ripped the move as “cowardly,” while the Healthy California Act’s sponsors, state Sens. Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins, insisted that “we will not turn our backs on this matter of life or death for families.”
“We are disappointed that the robust debate about healthcare for all that started in the California Senate will not continue in the Assembly this year,” said the joint statement. “This issue is not going away, and millions of Californians are counting on their elected leaders to protect the health of their families and communities.”
Mr. Rendon has been “bombarded on social media by those condemning his action,” the nurses group said in a Saturday statement.
“Nurses and the activists who are so critical to rebuilding the Democratic Party after a decade of massive losses across the country will not be silent in demanding all corporate Democratic officials, including Rendon, become part of the movement to join the community of nations in guaranteeing healthcare for everyone,” said CNA co-president Deborah Burger.
The California Democratic Party’s 2016 platform included a provision calling for “universal comprehensive health care for all Californians that includes medical and dental care, full reproductive health services that respects a woman’s right to choose, preventive services, prescription drugs, and mental health and substance abuse counseling and treatment.”