Soapbox

New guard of Democrats must push single-payer health care

As gubernatorial candidates gear up for the 2018 race, the issue of health care stands to divide the Democratic Party in an exciting and necessary way.

At the state party convention last month, four candidates, including Gavin Newson and Delaine Eastin, called out their peers for not supporting single-payer health care, especially considering Trump administration rollbacks could strip health insurance from millions of Californians.

It's about time.

Harry Snyder Headshot.jpg
Harry Snyder

For far too long, we’ve seen leading Democrats hem and haw around the issue of universal health care. Gov. Jerry Brown has repeatedly brushed off single payer as too expensive or too complicated — a sentiment echoed by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon when he controversially shut down a Senate-approved bill to establish single-payer, state-run health insurance last year.

Opinion

Never mind that health economists have repeatedly made the case that single-payer proposals in California would be a good bargain. Never mind that Brown offered clear and passionate arguments for single payer when he ran for president in 1992.

Let's focus instead on the premise that forging new policy is "too complicated.” Since when has California given up so easily?

Strong opposition from the NRA hasn't stopped California from leading the nation on gun control. Industry pushback and logistical challenges didn't prevent California from becoming the first state to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars in 2002. California advocates and politicians have continually proven that they're willing to stand up for what is right in the face of controversy.

So why are long-serving California Democrats such as Brown and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continually dragging their heels on health care? Governor Moonbeam has become Governor Bean Counter, and Pelosi is doubling down on her insider tactics that lost Democrats the House and presidency.

Courtney Hutchison mugshot.jpg
Courtney Hutchison

The evidence on universal health insurance coverage is strong, showing that it's cheaper and better than market-driven solutions. A study by the Political Economy Research Institute showed that, when cost savings are taken into account, Senate Bill 562 would cost $37 billion less a year, while providing comprehensive insurance for every Californian.

Among California Democrats, 75 percent are in favor of the single-payer bill, which should signal party leaders that the ground is shifting. Voters are clamoring for a health insurance system that works, and they are looking for political leaders who are willing to make it happen.

Hearings in the Assembly over the course of the next year will determine the fate of SB 562. It will take strategic refining of the bill and the political will to stand up to industry that wants to keep the status quo at the expense of California's people. Thankfully, some within the newest crop of candidates for governor seem to be ready to break with business-friendly politics. It's time for limousine liberals like Brown and Pelosi to get with the program or step aside.

Harry Snyder is a consumer advocate and lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health and can be contacted at harrysnyder@gmail.com. Courtney Hutchison is a public health policy advocate and graduate student at Bryn Mawr College and can be contacted at Courtney.hutchison@gmail.com.
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