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California Legislature

California won't be passing a single-payer healthcare system any time soon — the plan is dead for this year

A high-profile effort to establish a single-payer healthcare system in California sputtered on Friday when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) decided to shelve the proposal.

Rendon announced late Friday afternoon that the bill, SB 562 by state Sens. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would not advance to a policy hearing in his house, dampening the measure’s prospect for swift passage this year. 

“SB 562 was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete,” Rendon said in a statement. “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.”

Rendon took pains to note that his action does not kill the bill entirely — because it is the first year of a two-year session, it could be revived next year.

But the move is nonetheless a major setback for legislation that has electrified the Democratic party’s progressive flank.

The California Nurses Assn., the bill's sponsors and the state's most vocal advocates for single-payer, blasted Rendon's decision as "cowardly."

"Acting in secret in the interests of the profiteering insurance companies late Friday afternoon abandons all those people already threatened by Congress and the Trump administration," Deborah Burger, the union's co-president, said in a statement.

Burger continued: "The people of California are counting on the Legislature to protect them now, not sometime next year, and as polls have shown Californians support this proposal by a wide majority. A solution to this health care emergency could be at hand; Speaker Rendon is standing in opposition."

In a joint statement, Lara and Atkins, the measure's authors, said they were "disappointed the robust debate about healthcare for all that started in the California Senate will not continue in the Assembly this year."

"This issue is not going away," they added.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who had signaled wariness about the proposal's costs, said in a statement that Rendon "made the case that there’s clearly more work to do before anyone is in a position to vote on revamping California’s healthcare system."

"I recognize the tremendous excitement behind the measure, but basic and fundamental questions remain unanswered," Brown said.

Updated at 6:44 p.m.: This article was updated with a comment from Gov. Jerry Brown.

Updated at 5:38 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments from the California Nurses Assn. and the measure's authors.

This article was originally published at 4:38 p.m.

Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.

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