URGENT: Steffie Woolhandler's message on California

Speaker Anthony Rendon Statement on Health Care

California State Assembly, June 23, 2017

Yesterday, Republicans in the U.S. Senate released a cynical plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, posing a real and immediate threat to millions of Californians who only have health coverage because of the ACA.

Preparing California to meet this threat must be the top health care priority for the Legislature, Governor Brown, and organizations that advocate for increasing access to health care.

As someone who has long been a supporter of single payer, I am encouraged by the conversation begun by Senate Bill 562.

However, SB 562 was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete. Even senators who voted for SB 562 noted there are potentially fatal flaws in the bill, including the fact it does not address many serious issues, such as financing, delivery of care, cost controls, or the realities of needed action by the Trump Administration and voters to make SB 562 a genuine piece of legislation.

In light of this, I have decided SB 562 will remain in the Assembly Rules Committee until further notice.

The fight for single payer also is moving forward on other fronts. The head of the Campaign for a Healthy California, an organization created to pass SB 562, has acknowledged their ultimate goal is to get a single payer initiative on the ballot, and there remains ample time for them to pursue that before November 2018.


Support Grows for Single-Payer Medicare-for-All Plan Instead of Massive Cuts to Healthcare

Democracy Now!, June 23, 2017

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler: We’re seeing a lot of public support for the idea of single payer. We’re seeing a big movement for single payer at the state level in California. Obviously we’re getting a whole lot more discussion of single payer now than we’ve ever had before.

Amy Goodman: In California, it’s passed the state Senate. It’s got to go through the Assembly, and then it has to go to Governor Brown. Do you think that he will sign off on it?

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler: OK, well, we’re only going to get single payer if the populace keeps the pressure on the politicians. It’s not going to happen automatically. It’s not going to happen because Governor Brown has occasionally in the past said he likes single payer. It’s going to happen because we have a movement that’s strong enough to counter the political power of these rich people, who are getting these huge tax cuts; of the insurance industry, who would have no place in an efficiently run single-payer system; of Pharma, who thinks that they’re going to have to accept lower prices under single payer. In fact, they’re right. So that’s a lot of political power. And the only way to push through that is to really build a movement. But, you know, that really seems possible right now, with polls showing that two out of every three Americans who have an opinion on health care think we need some sort of Medicare-for-all program. So, now is really the time to be pushing this—in fact, the only way to really counter the Republican momentum at this point.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

Holding SB 562, California’s single payer bill, in the Assembly Rules Committee would mean that no further action would take place on it this year. The Republican ACA repeal bill before Congress is no excuse to block California’s progress on single payer, especially since the repeal bill likely will be defeated within a week or so. The fact that SB 562 needs more work is an even greater reason to move forward with it, not to abandon the effort.

Steffie Woolhandler was interviewed on Democracy Now! yesterday just before California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon released his statement announcing that he was putting a hold on the single payer bill. Although she was not aware of his decision, her words seem prescient.

Her pronouncement applies not just to California but to the entire nation. We must make every effort, not simply to keep the single payer momentum going, but to escalate it into a movement that would be impossible to repel.

The immediate task for Californians is to demand that Speaker Rendon move the bill out of the Rules Committee and advance it to other committees so that the essential markups that need to be done can be accomplished. Contact him at: 916-319-2063, @Rendon63rd, or

And for the rest of the nation? It won’t come from the politicians. It won’t come from the powerful and rich. It won’t come from the medical-industrial complex. As Steffie says, “we’re only going to get single payer if the populace keeps the pressure on the politicians.” We - all of us - have to do it.

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