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Is single payer still an option for California? Some lawmakers say yes, but not anytime soon

Alex E. Proimos /Flickr

Members of a special California Assembly health committee say a controversial health care plan is still on the table, but it could take years to flesh out. The group discussed single payer and other models this week in Sacramento.

The committee, formed with the goal of insuring all Californians, said they want to expand Medi-Cal eligibility to undocumented immigrants and provide more financial assistance for the state exchange. What they don’t want to do is rush into a single-payer model.

“We can’t do it without the federal resources," said committee co-chair Jim Wood. "I don’t see that we could even come close to doing that in this calendar year. Can we make progress? Absolutely.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon formed the committee in August, just months after shooting down a single payer bill that would have eliminated private insurance and pooled all health money into one government-run program.

Now, the committee says it’s working on unified public financing. That's something that could happen in a single payer system, meaning the government would pay all the hospitals and physicians directly. Or, the state government could contract with health insurers.

In the meantime, the committee recommends imposing a state insurance mandate to replace the Obamacare requirement that was recently repealed. They also want to raise reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal providers.

Committee members say funding for these efforts would have to come from the state budget, and hinted that legislation could come up this year.