Advocates for single-payer healthcare play the long game in California

By in Press Enterprise on February 15, 2018

By CALmatters

By Laurel Rosenhall, CALmatters

By many measures the rambunctious campaign for a single-payer health care system in California appears to be floundering.

A bill that would replace the existing health care system with a new one run by a single payer—specifically, the state government—and paid for with taxpayer money remains parked in the Assembly, with no sign of moving ahead. An effort by activists to recall Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon for shelving the bill has gone dormant. And an initiative that would lay the financial groundwork for a future single-payer system has little funding, undercutting its chances to qualify for the ballot.

But even if single payer is a lost cause in the short term, advocates are playing a long game. For now, it may well be less a realistic policy blueprint than an organizing tool.

And by that metric, advocates are making gains.

Riding a wave of enthusiasm from progressive Democrats, supporters of single payer have effectively made it a front-and-center issue in California’s 2018 elections. It’s been discussed in virtually every forum with the candidates running for governor, emerged as a point of contention in some legislative races, and will likely be a rallying cry at the upcoming California Democratic Party convention.

“This issue is not going away,” said Garry South, a Democratic political consultant who has worked with the California Nurses Association, which sponsored the stalled single-payer bill.

“The progressive elements who are supportive of the single-payer concept know that it’s not going to happen now, it’s not going to happen tomorrow. It’s a long-term process and Jerry Brown is gone as of January 2019.”

The governor has not had to stake a position on the bill because it skidded to a stop in the Assembly last summer without reaching his desk.

But state Sen. Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat who co-authored Senate Bill 562, […]    

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