The value of two votes: California’s story

Last month, California came close to passing Senate Bill 810, otherwise known as the Medicare for All bill. It would have created a single-payer healthcare system that covered all Californians and eliminated the need for healthcare insurance. Given the Democratic party dominance in the state, and the progressive leanings of the Governor, many people were hopeful of its passage. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Assembly. The CA Senate failed to pass the measure by 2 measly votes.

Who were the legislators who dropped the ball? They include six Democrats, some of whom were in safe “blue” Democratic districts. While some hail in more conservative districts, that does not account for all of them. Senator Padilla, for example, has a district that reflects a comfortably strong Democratic party foothold. So while a unique opportunity to advance a policy that would help all Californians was within the grasp of these leaders to achieve, they blew it. Padilla, Vargas, Rubio, and Wright abstained, while Calderon and Correa voted “no.” How’s that for profiles in courage?

So why the failure to pass SB810?

If we follow the money, we learn that their posture has a lot to do with who their “real” constituents are. Now it becomes obvious that Senator Padilla’s abstaining vote reflects his abiding appreciation for funding from the insurance, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industry. Apparently, there is a tipping point. From the chart below, one can observe that cumulative political donations from the insurance, drug company, and health professional industries which stood below $200,000 per legislator generally translated into a non-voting response of “abstained” when SB810 was on the line. For those legislators who received greater than $200,000, they  were generally more compliant to their benefactors and voted against SB810—the lone exception being Senator Padilla, who given his district, opted to abstain rather than vote “no” outright.

Legislators Who Failed to Support SB810

Insurance Industry

Big Pharma

Health Professionals

Total Amount

Senator Ron Calderon (D)

$165,000

$80,000

$37,000

$282,000

Senator Lou Correa (D)

$150,000

$110,000

$89,000

$359,000

Senator Alex Padilla (D)

$137,000

$67,000

$105,000

$309,000

Senator Michael Rubio (D)

$36,000

$94,000

$130,000

Senator Juan Vargas (D)

$115,000

$28,000

$46,000

$189,000

Senator Rod Wright (D)

$87,000

$45,000

$43,000

$175,000

So there you have it. If future success of SB810 is to be achieved (it will soon be re-introduced by Senator Mark Leno), I would simply advise all organizations seeking its adoption to raise political funds and to target the coffers of these legislators. This issue is not a matter of principle for them, but it is for us. Time to put our money where our mouths are.

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Footnote: Thanks to California OneCare for the funding documentation on the six legislators above.  If you’d like to join in or learn more, go to http://californiaonecare.org

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Posted in Community, healthcare, Innovation