[guest post by JVW]
CalMatters has the details:
Despite, or perhaps because of, an aggressive last-minute push by progressive activists ahead of a crucial deadline, legislation to create a government-run universal health care system in California died Monday without coming up for a vote.
The single-payer measure, Assembly Bill 1400, was the latest attempt to deliver on a longtime priority of Democratic Party faithful to get private insurers and profit margins out of health care. Because it was introduced last year, when it stalled without receiving a single hearing, it needed to pass the Assembly by Monday to continue through the legislative process.
But even the threat of losing the party’s endorsement in the upcoming election cycle was not enough to persuade the Assembly’s Democratic supermajority to advance the bill for further consideration, effectively killing the effort for another year.
Thanks to a generally strong stock market and performance of the tech sector during the COVID lockdowns the state is awash in tax revenue, so much so that some of it will likely even be returned to the taxpayers in rebate form after the May budget revision leads to the legislature probably passing a budget in June, just in time for Governor Newsom to start his summer reelection tour. It’s therefore unsurprising that hyper-progressives who have a strong presence in the legislative Democrat caucus are pushing for the state to once-and-for-all take over the burden of ensuring that all Golden State residents, irrespective of their citizenship status or even the legality of their presence here, be covered by a mandatory state-run health insurance program. Then-candidate Newsom came out in favor of single-payer health care for California during his 2018 campaign, but since then has suddenly become quiet on the issue, remaining mum on AB 1400 while grousing that the bill’s sponsors had not shared their plans with his office.
That bill’s main sponsor, Ash Kalra of San Jose, predictably blames his failure to get at least 41 of his 56 Democrat colleagues to vote to advance this bill in order to keep it from expiring (it was first introduced almost a full year ago). Assemblyman Kalra acknowledges that he fell short by “double-digits,” suggesting that as few as half of his caucus supports a Sacramento takeover of healthcare. To be sure, AB 1400 wouldn’t have immediately implemented single-payer from Chula Vista to Crescent City; the all-important financing of the program at an estimated tab of $200 billion per year would still have to be hashed out, both with those employers who currently purchase health insurance on behalf of their employees and with Washington DC, who remits to California its annual share of Medicare and Medicaid funds. But the bottom line to progressives is that passage of the bill would have made socialized medicine in the Golden State a fait accompli, and the bill called for the particulars of the program to be hammered out by a state-appointed board and approved by the legislature no later than July 1, 2024.
The move to single payer exposes a fissure within the dominant Democrat majority. The quite powerful and excessively left-wing California Nurses Association is the prime mover of this legislation, but other public employee labor unions which have worked hard to negotiate first-class health care coverage for their members (think teachers, for example) might not be too keen to be dumped into what will certainly end up being no better than a “MediCal for All” system. It’s this sort of intra-party squabble which, among so many other things, doomed native daughter Kamala Harris’s Presidential bid back in 2019.
There’s no doubt that the Democrats are sure to bring back this bill once Gavin Newsom is safely reelected. Look for him on the campaign trail to reiterate his desire for a statewide single-payer program in order to shore up his support among the Sanderistas in this state who are threatening to withhold support from Democrats who refused to back AB 1400, while at the same time issuing enough caveats about the cost of the bill and the future of the state’s finances to placate status quo Democrats who don’t want to lose the good thing they have going. In the end, expect Gov. Newsom to push forward with a single-payer plan, since that could truly shape up to be the only possible lasting legacy that this massive narcissist could leave. Naturally, he will want it to be fully implemented before he leaves office in January 2027 (jeeze, that’s a long time from now). And, of course, once California Democrats venture down this road, the rest of the national party won’t be too far behind.