California Health Reform, Minus Single-Payer

The Wall Street Journal‘s Gerald Seib wrote a piece today (5/20/09–subscription required) that offers California as a model for understanding the difficulties in overhauling the healthcare system:

California’s experience, in fact, represented a kind of trial run for the healthcare overhaul the president and Congress are about to attempt on the national level, offering useful lessons as well as warning signs about the potholes ahead.

Well, yes and no. Seib writes that the “California example showed the importance of securing at least some bipartisan support, the need to reassure those who have insurance as well as those who don’t, and the imperative of showing the public that healthcare costs can be tamed.” But there’s another layer to this story,one that Seib mostly avoids: the support for a single-payer system in the state.

Seib writes that “California’s effort was launched by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in early 2007.” That would leave out the nine years of single-payer legislative action prior to that year; in fact, in 2006 the single-payer bill SB 840 passed the state legislature, only to be vetoed by Schwarzenegger. It was reintroduced the following year, and thanks to a massive organizing effort (aided by Michael Moore’s film SiCKO) it once again passed the state legislature–and was once again vetoed by Schwarzenegger. It has been reintroduced this year.

Different lessons can be drawn from this experience, of course. But in Seib’s version of California history, we get only a glancing mention of this: “Some liberals pushed a government-run health plan.” The corporate media (along with various politicians) are determined to keep single-payer “off the table” in the current national debate; Seib seems to want to erase it from the past, too.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.