By California State Senator Ricardo Lara writing for LA Progressive.

Fortunately, Donald Trump and his Congressional cronies failed in their attempt to throw millions of Americans off their healthcare plans. That said, we nonetheless cannot rest on our laurels or continue playing defense when it comes to the gains we’ve made.

Instead, it’s time for California to boldly move forward and to join every other major industrialized nation across the globe in guaranteeing that health care is a right for everyone— not just a privilege offered to those who can afford it.

President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act represented a tremendous step in the right direction in terms of expanding coverage and lowering healthcare costs. Still, despite the law’s groundbreaking improvements from the old system, tens of millions of Americans continue to be left uninsured or underinsured, unable to afford necessary services and medications. It’s shameful, and frankly, abhorrent, that in the wealthiest nation on the planet, all too often, we are unable to provide basic care to everyone who needs it, notwithstanding that we have the highest healthcare costs in the advanced world per capita.

It’s high time that California take on money-grubbing corporations, along with insurance and pharmaceutical companies, who put profits that fatten their wallets before the health of working class families. The way we can accomplish this is by creating a system that’s reflective of California’s compassionate and progressive values, is sustainable, and where the people of our state can finally get the care they desperately need, regardless of their background or socio-economic status.

That’s why I, along with Senator Toni Atkins, introduced The Healthy California Act (SB 562) in the California Senate, which would provide healthcare coverage to all Californians by enacting a single-payer system. Our pioneering state, that’s long been recognized as a beacon for the nation, must follow in the footsteps of the rest of the developed world by becoming the first state in America to ensure that healthcare is a right, guaranteed to all.

Under this plan, California would cover all medical expenses for every resident regardless of their immigration status or income, and it would encompass comprehensive health coverage, including preventative and mental health care. Such a forward-thinking single-payer system would put an end to the two-tiered system we currently have in place, and replace it with a framework that ensures quality healthcare to all patients, not just those at the top who can afford to buy the premium insurance policies.

Moreover, embracing a single-payer system isn’t just the more humane choice— it’s also the more efficient and cost effective choice. Universal coverage would streamline healthcare delivery, while cutting wasteful bureaucratic inefficiencies, and at the same time, greatly reduce administrative overhead by allowing Californians to choose their doctor, not requiring referrals and separating health insurance from employment.

While there will be upfront costs as we transition from our existing system, universal healthcare would eliminate co-pays and insurance deductibles. With the bargaining weight of one of the world’s 10 largest economies behind us, our state would bolster the buying power for patients and consumers and contribute to lower costs for all.

For those who question where our state can garner the resources needed to fund the system’s initial startup costs, there are a range of possibilities that can ensure the Healthy California Act is funded by broad-based revenue. While we are still in the process of developing a detailed and comprehensive funding proposal, a component of our vision includes having California seek waivers from the federal government to use all federal funds from Medi-Cal, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to support the program.

Despite strong resistance to universal healthcare from some of the most entrenched special interests in Sacramento and on Wall Street, people of all backgrounds are increasingly uniting behind the concept of a single-payer healthcare system. According to a Pew poll conducted at the beginning of the year, over 60% of Americans say the government should be responsible for ensuring universal health care coverage for all Americans, including four in 10 Republicans. And the number is likely even higher in such a deep blue bastion for progressivism, like California. This data serves as fresh evidence of the fact that even though passing single-payer will no doubt be a challenging battle, universal healthcare clearly has widespread support among the people.

We can already read the tea leaves that when it comes to healthcare, Trump and his extremists allies in the federal government would rather kick working class families to the curb and give their billionaire friends and Wall Street corporations major tax cuts. Since they’ve put everyday Americans who aren’t part of the wealthy elite on the back burner, it’s time for California to step up to the plate and protect our own. As one of the largest economies on Earth, our golden state has demonstrated that embracing inclusive, progressive values can actually further our growth as a global economic powerhouse. That’s why it’s time to create a common-sense single-payer healthcare system that covers more and costs less.

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