by Adam Beam
Sacramento, Calif. (AP) — Frustrated by partisan standoffs in Washington, California’s heavily Democratic legislature will begin debate on Tuesday whether to create its own universal health care system — a move that will test how far the state’s progressive politicians are willing to go with their campaigns. fulfill the promises.
Government-funded health care for all has been a staple of California’s political rhetoric for decades. Governor Gavin Newsom promised to do it when running for governor in 2018 and voters elected him in a landslide.
But that’s not easy to accomplish in the country’s most populous state, where nearly half pay for private health insurance through their jobs. In 1994, voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative that would have created a universal health care system. Another attempt passed in the state Senate in 2017, but it never got a vote in the state legislature.
Democrats in the state assembly are trying again with a new strategy this year. First, they want to pass a bill that creates a universal health care system and sets out its rules. Then, they want to ask voters to approve a huge tax increase to pay for it all.
The plan, which would require voter approval, would raise taxes on businesses and individuals who earn at least $149,509 per year. The California Taxpayers Association, which opposes the plan, estimates it would raise taxes by about $163 billion per year.
“If we can agree on a policy and get that policy passed, it becomes more real. Then you’re really telling the voters what they’re voting for. It’s really important.” It is,” said Assembly member Ash Kalra, a Democrat from San Jose who authored the motion.
Questions about how to pay for a universal health care system have doomed previous plans. In 2011, Vermont implemented the nation’s first universal health care system in the country. But state officials dropped it after three years because they said they could not pay for it.
California’s 1994 proposal also relied on the tax on employers and individuals, and failed after strong opposition from the insurance industry. Insurers, doctors and business groups are again queuing up to oppose the latest proposal, arguing that it would cost too much and limit people’s choices.
In its first three years, Newsom has focused more on making sure everyone in California has health insurance. He has expanded the state’s Medicaid program to cover low-income people 26 and younger and those 50 and older, regardless of their immigration status. On Monday, he proposed covering all others at a potential cost of $2.7 billion per year.
On Monday, Newsom reiterated his support for a universal health care system, but declined to say whether he supported the plan in the Legislature because he said he had not read it. Asked if he “gave up” on a universal health care system in California, Newsom pointed to a commission he had set up that is investigating such a system and how much it would cost.
He also said he is working with President Joe Biden’s administration on the “flexibility” needed for California to implement such a system.
“The difference here is that when you are in a position of responsibility, you have to apply, you have to manifest ideals. It is tough work,” he said. “One thing has to be said. To do is another thing. And, with respect, there are many different paths to achieving the goal.”
On Tuesday, the Assembly Health Committee is scheduled to debate the bill that would create a universal health care system. They are not determined to debate the bill that will pay for it. But opponents of the plan will likely still highlight the cost.
“On the health committee, I look forward to a strong discussion on the effects of social therapy in California, including: How much tax will increase on the middle class,” said Assembly Republican Leader Mary Waldron.