California Democrats took the first steps of reviving a long-stalled bill that would abolish the private health insurance market in the state and replace it with a government-run plan that they promised would never deny anyone the care they need.
The proposal cleared a legislative committee in the State Assembly Tuesday, but it still has a long way to go before becoming law.
According to an analysis by the California Taxpayers Association, to pay for universal health care, Democrats have introduced a separate $163 billion per year bill that would raise taxes on businesses and individuals.
Voters would have to approve the tax bill first, which could go up for a vote as early as 2024.
The Universal health care bill passed Tuesday by a vote of 11-3. It would create the universal health care system and set its rules. Republican lawmakers opposed the bill. They argued it would cost too much and pay doctors and nurses too little, potentially worsening a shortage of medical workers.
“If government-run health care becomes law, millions of Californians will flee the state — either to avoid the $163 billion per year in new taxes or to escape the lengthy waits for care that will become the norm,” Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron said.
Bill would expand coverage to hundreds of thousands
For years, California has attempted and failed to replace private health insurance with a universal, state-funded program. Voters rejected it in 1994. Meanwhile, in 2017 state lawmakers failed to figure out how to fund a single-payer health care system.
“There are countless studies that tell us a single-payer healthcare system is the fiscally sound thing to do, the smarter healthcare policy to follow, and a moral imperative if we care about human life,” said California assemblyman Ash Kalra, who authored the proposal.
California Governor Gavin Newsom campaigned in 2018 with the promise of ushering in a single-payer health system.
“I think that the ideal system is a single-payer system. I’ve been consistent with that for well over a decade,” he said on Monday at a news conference. But he said he had not “had the opportunity to review” the plan being debated by the legislature.
If approved, the proposal would expand health coverage for about 700,000 additional people.