Two proposals, both alike in dignity,
In slimy Sacramento, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
A pair of star-cross'd bills defeated;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury the peoples' strife.
Although their deaths occurred five months apart, it is no coincidence that single-payer legislation was defeated by the California legislature after legislation to regulate health insurance rates failed. Both were poisoned by the health insurance lobby making its foul influence felt on DINO legislators. And as one is on the verge of being resurrected, so might the other.
The long reach of the insurance industry in California is about to be clipped. With two weeks to go, more than six hundred thousand signatures have been gathered for a ballot petition that would regulate health insurance premium increases calledthe Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act. That's a hundred thousand more than required, and seventy-five percent of the way towards their target of eight hundred thousand.
True, once it is on the ballot for November, the four major insurance companies in California will start a massive campaign to defeat it (What's a $10,000,000 risk for a campaign that has a shot at victory compared to the billiions of dollars in profit these companies make that are being threatened?).
But with Californians fed up with premium hikes of 153% on average over the last ten years; with some facing ten percent to thirty percent increases now or in the near future; with people being forced to drop their insurance coverage because of the cost; with sixty-two percent of bankruptcies in this country being due to health care costs; with health care costs and coverage a dominant theme in labor negotiations all over California, there is little doubt in my mind that the people of this state will see through these advertising lies and vote for rate regulation in November.
Why will passage of this legislation be first real step towards single payer? No one else seems to be saying much along these lines, but here's my thinking:
One of two things is going to happen if and when the votes are tallied in our favor in November.
Either our do-nothing legislature is going to take notice that the people just aren't going to take this shit any more, and pass some kind of single-payer legislation in 2013 (hopefully with the help of a few more progressive legislators than currently).
Or, if that doesn't happen...
Single-payer organizations in California, Consumer Watchdog (which sponsored this initiative), the California Nurses Association (big advocates for single-payer) and other progressive groups are going to realize the power they can wield based on this rate-regulation victory. One way or another they will eventually get their acts together (or one group will take the lead) and a comprehensive single-payer initiative will get put on the ballot for 2014. The campaign will use the example of how the Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act got onto the ballot with a combination of volunteer signature gatherers, paid signature gatherers and Internet downloads, study it, and mount a similar effort.
It may be an optimistic hypothesis. It may be unrealistic. It may even be laughably absurd to believe people and organizations can come together like that. But we shall see. I like my theory.
The first step is getting the Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act passed by as big a margin as possible. If you haven't already done so, it is not too late to sign the petition. Two clicks and a PRINT command and a ballot will magically appear which you can sign and mail back in to Consumer Watchdog. When the times comes in November, make sure everyone you know, and lots of people you don't, vote for the initiative.
Then it's on to single-payer.
An earlier diary on the drive to get the signatures for this ballot initiative here: