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Assembly continues to explore single-payer health care




People rally in favor of single-payer healthcare for all Californians as the US Senate prepares to vote on the Senate GOP health care bill, outside the office of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, June 27, 2017 in South Gate, California.  
Rendon announced last week that Senate Bill SB 562 - the high-profile effort to establish a single-payer healthcare system in California - would be shelved, saying it was
People rally in favor of single-payer healthcare for all Californians as the US Senate prepares to vote on the Senate GOP health care bill, outside the office of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, June 27, 2017 in South Gate, California. Rendon announced last week that Senate Bill SB 562 - the high-profile effort to establish a single-payer healthcare system in California - would be shelved, saying it was "incomplete." / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon faced a lot of resistance when he shelved the Healthy California Act in June.

The proposal called for a single-payer option for health care in California. 

At the time, Rendon called the bill "woefully incomplete." For one, the bill didn't include details on how the state would pay for it. There were protests. Rendon said he received death threats. 

And perhaps that pushback is what led Rendon to task a committee with taking a more in-depth look at whether California could create and pay for a single-payer option.

In September, Take Two spoke with that committee's co-chair, Assemblyman Jim Wood. He said it was doubtful that the committee would have new legislation to present in January:

There may be a variety of authors who decide, based on the information that we pull together, to introduce different bills. I'm not going to commit to saying the committee itself will absolutely introduce a bill because I don't know that that will happen.

Now, with the assembly back in session, where do things stand?

Assemblyman Wood joined Take Two again for an update.

Last time we spoke, you said you don't believe it's possible for us to overhaul our health system without cooperation from Washington. Do you still think that?

Absolutely. We need the money from the federal government, and there are a lot of potential stumbling blocks that would prevent us from getting that. 

We get about 52 percent of the money for healthcare in California from the federal government, and that is almost $200 billion. Without that, I don't see how we go it alone. 

What is the biggest stumbling block?

If you're talking about the federal government, there are some waivers we would need to get, and if we're going to role Medicare into this system, it would require a change in federal law. We get waivers over time. They often take years to accomplish, and so time is going to be one of the challenges we're going to face. 

You don't sound optimistic, Assemblyman. 

We heard from the governor of Vermont in our hearing who said, you know, you should be looking at this with a new governor and a new president and try to get all those pieces in place to allow you to move forward. But he said, 'I don't see how you get it in California. We couldn't get it with a friendly administration when we tried to implement our single-payer in 2014.' 

Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.