California's state senate on May 31, by 25 ayes to 15 noes, approved SB 840, which would require California to adopt a statewide universal single-payer health plan. The bill is now before the state assembly.
Introduced by state Senator Sheila Kuehl (Democrat, Los Angeles), the bill would both make all Californians eligible for specified health care benefits and also prohibit insurers from providing those same benefits.
According to the Bill's Legislative Digest , existing California does not now provide universal coverage in the state. Instead, it has several programs for special groups. These include the Healthy Families Program and the MediCal program.
Presently, the state's Department of Managed Health Care regulates health service plans while its Department of Insurance regulates its insurers.
SB 840 would instead create a California Health Insurance System. A new California Health Insurance Agency would administer it, while a new, elected state Health Insurance Commissioner would control the new agency.
All California residents would eligible for the system's benefits.
The system would be single-payer. It would negotiate for or set fees for services provided through its system and would pay claims for those services.
The system would have to be operational within two years of the bill's enactment.
The bill would require the commissioner to take steps to have various federal, state, and local health care payments be made to the new system. The system would then assume responsibility for benefits and services that these funds previously paid.
Other new positions created by the bill would include:
. a health insurance policy board to establish policy on medical issues and other matters,
. an Office of Consumer Advocacy to represent the interests of consumers,
. Office of Health Care Planning to plan for future health care needs,
. an Office of Health Care Quality to promote heath care quality and consumer satisfaction,
. an Office of Inspector General for the system with oversight powers,
. and a Health Insurance Fund and Payments Board to administer the system's finances.
Insurers could not provide policies or service plan contracts for services the system would cover. Nor could participating companies pay shareholder dividends from systems revenues.
The bill would extend insurance fraud laws to the system's service and product providers.
It also includes other provisions, including reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for mandated costs.