By Michael Todd, Santa Cruz Sentinel.

SANTA CRUZ » Even the nose-bleed seats were full in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium for a rally to support a Senate bill that would eradicate private health insurance in California.

The legislation known as the Healthy California Act, or Senate Bill 562, was introduced Wednesday. California Nurses Association and National Nurses United hosted the rally Saturday at the Louden Nelson Community Center to provide information about how the plan, supporters said, would reduce health care premiums, deductibles and copays by removing private insurance interests from the equation.

California represents one-sixth the nation’s economy and could afford its own single-payer health system, said Carolyn Bowden, an organizer with California Nurses Association. Bowden said private insurance coverage has driven up health care costs in the U.S. above all other developed nations. She also said Americans use the least treatment among developed nations.

“It’s limited health care. It’s self-rationing,” she said, adding that such rationing reduces infant-mortality rates and life expectancy. She showed data supporting theories that poor areas of the state accompany 11 years fewer in life expectancy than affluent areas.

U.S. House Republican leaders withdrew legislation March 24 to replace the Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — with the American Health Care Act, The New York Times reported last week.

Bowden said the effort gives Californians the chance to capitalize on a plan that would provide health care to all Californians by using existing coffers and user funding for a “Medicare-for-all-type system.”

She said the push for that system in California has been underway decades. At the federal level, she said, there have been efforts to provide national health care since the early 1900s.

Bowden said the Affordable Care Act does not provide cost control or unlimited access to care as private insurance companies embrace narrow networks that don’t allow patients the same coverage at all clinics. Many are outside a person’s network, she said.

“The bill, among other things, would provide that the program cover a wide range of medical benefits and other services and would incorporate the health care benefits and standards of other existing federal and state provisions, including, but not limited to, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medi-Cal, ancillary health care or social services covered by regional centers for persons with developmental disabilities, Knox-Keene, and the federal Medicare program,” according to Senate Bill 562. The bill likely will go before the California Health Committee, of which State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, is a member.

“The bill would require the board to seek all necessary waivers, approval, and agreements to allow various existing federal health care payments to be paid to the Healthy California program, which would then assume responsibility for all benefits and services previously paid for with those funds,” according to SB 562.

During Saturday’s rally, retired nurse Sally Gwin-Satterlee of Felton said the movement behind the bill is growing.

“Let California lead the way,” Gwin-Satterlee said.

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