The California Health Insurance Reliability Act, SB840 (Kuehl), which would institute a statewide, universal health insurance system, was passed out of Senate Banking Finance and Insurance Committee, chaired by Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco) on April 6, 2005 and the Senate Health Committee chaired by Debra Ortiz (D-Sacramento) on April 27, 2005.
The vote in the Insurance committee was 7-4, on a straight party-line vote, with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing. The bill also passed the Senate Health Committee with a similar 7-4 vote.
INSURANCE COMMITTEE TESTIMONY
THE SUPPORT: Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles) introduced her bill with both an overview of the health care crisis, and of her bill as a solution to the problem. She pitched the bill as a way to more efficiently use the health care dollars now spent to cover all Californians without many of the financing and access issues that now threaten care for everybody.
To outline the problem, she had a representative of CalPERS, the third-largest purchaser of health care in the country, to give an overview of the problem of rising health care costs, and how addressing these costs is such a challenge for even the most powerful actors in the health care marketplace. A California citizen gave stirring testimony about how she was forced into bankruptcy after a medical emergency, even though she had coverage.
To support the solution, Dr. Richard Quint of California Physicians Alliance described the merits of CHIRA. He was followed by dozens of organizations that stated their support, including: Health Access California, Gray Panthers, SEIU, California Teachers Association, United Nurses Association of California, Resources for Independent Living, Consumers Union, Congress of California Seniors, California School Employees Association, Older Women's League, Congress of Racial Equality, California Commission on the Status of Women, Friends Committee on Legislation, Vote Health, Health Care for All, National Association of Social Workers, Mental Health Association, Neighbor to Neighbor, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry, and Progressive Democrats of America.
THE OPPOSITION: The opposition was led by the Chamber of Commerce, which stated their "opposition to a universal, single-payer health care system," stating that they believe it would lead to "higher costs for consumers" and "greater bureaucracy, including several new state agencies and many new state employees." The Chamber "fundamentally disagrees that a government-run system can be more efficient and cost less," and that such a system would be "ripe for cost-overruns" that would lead to tax increases.