When Jerry Brown was running for President in 1992, he wholeheartedly embraced a single payer national health insurance system.
“When I see in Canada that they pay $500 less per person, that they cover every citizen, and that they live two years longer and their infant mortality is 50 percent less – then I see a model,” Brown said during a debate will Bill Clinton in New York in April 1992.
“You cut out all the private health insurance, you have one single payer either at the national level or through the 50 states and that one single payer will be the one who negotiates with the doctors, the hospitals and the other providers.”
“And since you have only one source of income in the whole medical establishment, you can drive down the costs. With the holding down of the cost, you can eliminate the intermediary, the middle man, the bureaucracy. In some of these hospitals, there’s more people doing the billing that there are in direct patient care on an eight hour shift. It doesn’t make any sense. But through a single payer, as we’ve seen in Canada, you can eliminate tremendous amounts of paperwork both for the doctors, the hospitals and the insurance companies. Through them phase this in over a three or four year period, and with the lid, the tight lid, you put on medical spending, you will generate spending in the neighborhood of $80 billion. That’s enough to cover all of the people who are not now getting health care. You do run it through the government. It’s going to run through a tax system, but the money that will be spent will be hopefully, certainly for all middle class people it will be less than they are now paying in premiums or what their employer is paying and what is now coming out of their paycheck.”
Fast forward 18 years.
Jerry Brown is Attorney General of California.
And he’s now running for Governor of California.
Twice, the California legislature has passed a single payer bill.
And twice Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger has vetoed it.
If Jerry Brown becomes Governor, will he sign a single payer bill?
Jerry Brown isn’t publicly saying.
But single payer activists believe he will.
And they are preparing for the battle ahead.
Don Bechler is with Single Payer Now California.
Bechler says that Brown is concerned about the financing.
The California single payer bill – SB 810 – says that a special panel will be put together to figure out the financing.
“You can pass the bill and not have single payer,” Bechler told Single Payer Action. “But the fundamental message is that the California legislature wants the insurance industry out of health care.”
Bechler sees two paths to financing single payer.
To raise taxes in California, you need a two thirds vote of the legislature.
A majority of the California legislature favors single payer – but not two-thirds.
So, if Brown signs the single payer bill – the activists will have to get a ballot initiative passed.
In fact, there probably will be two ballot initiatives – one for financing sponsored by the single payer activists.
And one sponsored by the insurance industry to upend the single payer law.
“If Jerry Brown signs the bill, the insurance industry will run out and put an initiative on the ballot to overturn the legislation,” Bechler said. “It will be the mother of all initiatives. The insurance industry will spend more money to defeat single payer in California than Obama spent to win the Presidency. What was that? $700 million?”
Despite the hurdles, Bechler said Brown should feel comfortable signing the single payer bill.
“Right now, the Democratic controlled legislature has passed the bill twice,” Bechler. “There are 45 co-sponsors for the bill. And it’s part of the plank of the California Democratic Party. If he’s against all of this, he should quit the Democratic Party.”
Bechler believes that single payer will win first at the state level.
But he works a two track approach – federal and state.
“We did all kinds of work this year on the federal bill. We had demonstrations at Nancy Pelosi’s office four times. The fourth time she called Homeland Security and had twelve of us arrested. On February 25, when Obama was meeting with the Republicans in Washington, we had giant banners that said – Californians Want Medicare for Everyone.”
Bechler opposes the current federal health care reform legislation that Obama and the Democrats are seeking to ram through Congress.
“It embeds the insurance companies in our lives. That means $400 billion in subsidies for the insurance industry. I’m for expanding Medicaid. I’m for prohibiting the insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. You ought to pass laws that do just that. Don’t bail out the insurance industry by forcing 30 million Americans to buy their product.”
“They are supposed to be in business to provide health care. But they are actually in business to deny care to people who need it, pass costs on to others, and deny claims. They are like a cancer in America. I favor the death penalty for the insurance companies. I’m for tying them to a big anchor and throwing them into the Pacific Ocean.”
“Trying to involve the insurance companies in meaningful health care reform is like trying to involve the Mafia in a discussion about local public safety,” Bechler said. “They are incompatible.”