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Single Payer Vs Universal Health Care: What's The Difference?

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Asm. Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) sits with his wife Annie Lam in the Assembly chambers on January 11, 2016, the day he was elected speaker.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Just two months after shooting down single payer health care, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon says he wants to achieve universal coverage in California.

So what's the difference?

"Single payer" and "universal coverage" are two different ideas, but they're not mutually exclusive. Scott Graves of the California Budget and Policy Center puts it this way:

"Universal coverage here is the principle, and when we talk about and hear about single payer, that is one way of moving California toward universal coverage, but it’s certainly not the only way."

Graves says a single payer system would create one government insurance provider for all Californians, potentially eliminating Medicaid and Medicare and putting private plans out of business.

A universal system would likely keep existing plans in place, but also create new options for the state's 3 million uninsured.

Rendon could revisit the single payer discussion, or he could look at other strategies

 “There are several different approaches being proposed, including Medicare for all, single payer, hybrid systems and ACA expansion," he said in a statement. "I have called for these hearings to determine what approach best gets us there – what gets us to ‘yes’ when it comes to health care for all.”

Speaker Rendon and his newly convened Assembly Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage will hold a series of hearings on universal coverage starting in mid-September

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