May 16, 2022

Sacramento theatrics on ‘single payer’

View Original Notice ? Sacramento theatrics on ‘single payer’

 

California’s Democratic officials have taken two steps this month to move the state toward a single-payer healthcare system, where government bureaucracies replace private plans for the provision of everyone’s medical needs. That would cause massive – and dangerous – healthcare disruptions, but don’t worry. Their moves only are political theater.

The first action involves Assembly Bill 1400 — introduced last year by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose. The legislation would establish “CalCare,” to oversee “a comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage program,” according to the committee’s policy analysis. It passed the Assembly Health Committee last week on an 11-3 vote.

The second action was the introduction of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11, which would place on the statewide ballot a measure asking voters to double their tax burden to pay for a single-payer healthcare system. A Tax Foundation report suggests that ACA 11 would increase per-household taxes by an astonishing $12,250 per year.

As Capitol observers note, the party line vote on AB 1400 was symbolic given that the measure has little chance of making it to the governor by this month’s deadline. Democrats like to go on record supporting single-payer healthcare given that it’s a core demand of progressive groups, but even they aren’t about to pass a law that lacks an independent fiscal analysis or a non-laughable funding mechanism.

ACA 11 offers a way to pay for the new bureaucracy, of course, but the chances of the Legislature passing and voters approving such astronomical tax increases are miniscule, even in tax-happy California. Think of it, again, in the context of theatrics. Legislators are pretending to create a funding mechanism for a bill that’s merely symbolic.

Nevertheless, Kalra slammed Republicans for demanding a cost analysis: “This bill has been around for almost a year; they could have asked for that months ago.” Yet Kalra introduced the bill a year ago — and he never bothered to gather cost information for obvious reasons (it would provide endless ammunition for opponents). Serious legislation would start with numbers. Surely, Kalra knows his bill isn’t serious, but he’s acting like he’s not in on the joke.

The last time Democrats introduced a similar bill (Senate Bill 562), the Senate Appropriations Committee estimated it would cost $400 billion — and would consume the current $286-billion general-fund budget. The full Senate passed it anyway. Senators knew it wasn’t affordable, would threaten the economy and was dead on arrival in the Assembly, but they could say that they boldly backed a single-payer system in their campaign pitches.

Finally, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed in his budget a plan to pay healthcare for all low-income adults. He says it will cost $2.7 billion a year, but is likely to cost far more. The plan is more responsible and realistic than AB 1400 or ACA 11, but Newsom’s description of “delivering” on his universal healthcare pledges involved some acting, too.

Newsom knows progressives will never agree that expanding existing programs amounts to universal healthcare. His idea is overly costly, but at least it would only expand existing programs rather than toss aside private health arrangements and replace them with a new bureaucracy that may run as efficiently as the Employment Development Department.

Those are the latest antics from Sacramento, where healthcare policy is more about posturing than problem solving.

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