By Jon Queally / Common Dreams

Demonstrators advocating for the Healthy California Act outside the California State Capitol in May. (Healthy California / Facebook)

A bill that would create the first state-level single-payer health care system in the United States passed the California Senate on Thursday, generating applause as a major step forward in creating a necessary proving ground for a national ‘Medicare for All’ program.

With a vote of 23-14, the Healthy California Act (SB 562) passed in the Democratic-controlled chamber largely along party lines.

Though the bill is now headed to the California Assembly for consideration and debate, supporters of the proposal celebrated its passage in the Senate as a landmark development.

“What we did today was really approve the concept of a single-payer system in California,” Democratic State Sen. Ricardo Lara, a co-author of the bill, told the San Jose Mercury News following the vote.

“This is a banner day for California, and a moral model for the nation,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, in a statement.

“California Senators have sent an unmistakable message today to every Californian and people across the nation,” she continued. “We can act to end the nightmare of families who live in fear of getting sick and unable to get the care they need due to the enormous cost. We’ve shown that healthcare is not only a humanitarian imperative for the nation, it is politically feasible, and it is even the fiscally responsible step to take.”

Earlier this week, as Common Dreams reported, a fiscal analysis of SB 562, conducted by economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and sponsored by the CNA/NNU, found that the plan—if implemented properly—would provide universal coverage in the state while actually driving down overall healthcare spending by 18 percent.

“If you wish to see how a single payer system really could provide health care for everyone while reducing costs for businesses and households alike, you should download the full analysis and study it,” said Dr. Don McCanne, a member of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP).

Separately, a new poll out Wednesday showed 70 percent of California voters say they support the healthcare goals set forth by the Healthy California Act. Of those surveyed, 58 percent confirmed their support of the proposal even after being presented with the arguments made by those opposing it.

Offering his perspective, Martin Schoen, a Temple City resident who works for a private insurance company, explained why even he supports a “Medicare for All” style system in the state.

“I am an insurance agent. I think a single-payer plan for all Americans is the path this country should take. Calling such a plan socialized medicine is a regression to the red scares of the 1950s,” Schoen wrote in a letter to Los Angeles Times on Friday. “Having insurance companies involved in our care is one of the major reasons why our healthcare system seems so confusing and unfair.”

He concluded, “Why should only seniors get the best healthcare in America? Give it to everybody and join the rest of the industrialized world.”

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