They still don’t get it in Sacramento. Only days after voters in Massachusetts elected a Republican to fill a U.S. Senate seat that had been held by the late “liberal lion” Ted Kennedy for 47 years, Sacramento Democrats were reviving a proposal to create a government-run, single-payer health-insurance system that would cost California $200 billion a year.
According to exit poll data, Scott Brown’s position on federal health-care legislation was the most important factor behind his win. Fifty-two percent of voters surveyed opposed the health-care bill, and 42 percent voted for Brown specifically to help prevent its passage. Poll after poll concludes that most Americans oppose the sweeping changes to the health-care system being discussed in Washington.
Yet, not 48 hours after that referendum in the most liberal of states rocked the nation, Democrats in Sacramento — in an act of either defiance or cluelessness — voted to revive Senate Bill 810 (introduced by Sen. Mark Leno), a proposal far more intrusive than what’s being discussed at the federal level. It would create a government-run, single-payer health-insurance system that would cost California $200 billion a year.
A week later, they passed it off the floor. Keep in mind that California is pulling in about $85 billion in annual revenues right now. Yet another $20 billion-plus hole has opened in the state budget, and the state has already cut spending on education, transportation, state parks and almost everything else.
You might be wondering where exactly California would find the money to create a program that alone would cost nearly 250 percent more than the revenue the state takes in to fund its entire budget. Well, keep wondering. The Democrats don’t know. SB 810 doesn’t contain a funding mechanism. It would create a committee — at a cost of $2 million — to figure all that out later.
A new government committee to concoct a colossal tax plan to fund a massive state health-care bureaucracy? The Democrats in Sacramento really aren’t listening. The people of California must be heard, and so I’ve introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 29.
SCA 29 would call for voter approval, through a ballot initiative, before any state or federal health-care program could be enforced in California that, among other things, requires individuals to buy coverage, requires employers to provide health-care coverage to employees or creates a single-payer system.
When you look at just how radical SB 810 is, and how easily it breezed through the Senate, the need to empower voters to protect themselves is clear. Understand, SB 810 would not set up a health-care system just for those who are uninsured, or who want to take part in it. SB 810 would abolish the entire system in California as we know it. Doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals would be de facto government employees. Private health insurance coverage would be illegal. Kaiser, Blue Cross, Cigna, Health Net, you name it — they would not be allowed to do business in California. They would be gone.
SB 810 would force anyone who can’t afford to pay for medical care out-of-pocket into the government-run system. Waited in line at the DMV lately? Tried to get through to a person at the Employment Development Department about your unemployment insurance benefits? Looking forward to dealing with the IRS this spring? It’s a sobering thought.
The people of California don’t want their health care handed over lock, stock and barrel to another faceless, inefficient bureaucracy. We should certainly find ways to make health care more affordable and health insurance more obtainable. That’s a far cry though from health care administered solely by the government in a scheme that can only lead to rationed care and even higher taxes than Californians already pay.
Brown’s improbable election should have been a wake-up call for lawmakers across the nation — an opportunity to start over and work out moderate, bipartisan compromises on health-care reform that fix the elements that need fixing without taking away what works for the majority of Americans who are happy with the coverage they have.
Sacramento Democrats slept right through it, green-lighting instead a massive, invasive health-care bureaucracy Californians neither want nor can afford. With SCA 29, voters will have their wishes not only heard, but obeyed.
— State Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, represents Santa Barbara County’s South Coast in the 19th Senate District.