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Workers’ Compensation Under Single-Payer System

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In the face of a changing political field, attacks on labor, and the issues with how the nation treats its injured and ill workers, California lawmakers believe they may have found a solution. Despite Washington pushing for a market approach to healthcare, Sen. Toni Atkins of San Diego and State Sen. Ricardo Lara are going in the opposite direction. Taking Canada’s current universal system as a model, they believe California is the perfect setting for a brand-new approach to healthcare – the single-payer system.

What Is the Single-Payer Healthcare System?

Canada operates under a “single-payer” healthcare system. This system started at the local level, then revolutionized healthcare from province to province. Under a single-payer system, the government pays healthcare bills, not individual insurance companies. Private healthcare facilities provide the care, without the need for deductibles or premiums. The money for this care in America could come from state governments, federal governments, and taxes on earnings for employers and workers, according to Lara.

The single-payer healthcare system operates in a way that’s very similar to Medicare. It has the potential to expand access to healthcare and make it more affordable for the average citizen. It could also improve the quality of care given. Parties against the single-payer system say that it could result in an extremely high level of taxation and longer wait lists for appointments. This isn’t the first-time lawmakers have tried to introduce such a system in California. This time, however, there are a few factors working in favor of single-payer healthcare.

A single-payer system would cost California an estimated $400 billion annually. As much as half of this money would come from a new payroll tax. It would be a state-run system that replaces public programs like Medicaid and Medicare, as well as existing health insurance coverage through employers. The current bill regarding implementation of this system, Senate Bill 562 (“The Healthy California Act”) underwent a vote in June 2017, with 23 “yes” votes and 14 “no” votes. It is now at Assembly.

How Would This Affect Workers’ Compensation?

Under a single-payer system, workers could benefit from universal, publicly-financed healthcare. The system would completely remove involvement by workers’ compensation insurance companies and employers in the administration of benefits. Proponents of the bill believe this will vastly improve injured workers’ access to high-quality healthcare services. A single-payer system could hold employers financially accountable for employee injuries and track injury events to improve worker safety.

With single-payer healthcare, workers would have a right to healthcare under the same terms as everyone else in the state. They would still have to fight for lost wages and disability benefits, but access to adequate and prompt healthcare would improve, according to supporters of the bill. Tax money, rather than insurance premiums, would pay for these services, eliminating healthcare delays and claim denials that have harmed injured workers in the past. Many believe that single-payer healthcare in California would ultimately strengthen the infrastructure around the country and spark a nationwide revolution. In the meantime, the bill must first pass through Senate in the state of California.