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California Misses Deadline to Pass Single-Payer Bill

April 29, 2019

California lawmakers missed the deadline to implement a universal, government-run health insurance program in the Golden State this year.

stethoscope and insurance docs

During his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Gavin Newsom endorsed Senate Bill (S.B.) 562, also known as the Healthy California Act. The bill, introduced in 2017, would have created a government-run health care system in California to replace private insurance. The bill stalled in the General Assembly. 

“There’s no reason to wait around on universal health care and single-payer in California,” Newsom told a gathering of nurses at a campaign rally in February 2018. “It’s time to move [S.B.] 562 along. It’s time to get it out of committee. It’s time to move it along the legislative track. It’s time to do that now. We don’t need to wait for the governor’s race. We don’t need even to wait another year.”

Daunting Cost Estimates

A University of Massachusetts at Amherst analysis found the plan would cost $330 billion per year initially, and the California Legislative Analyst’s office estimated it would cost $400 billion annually, twice the overall state budget. These price tags would have necessitated a huge tax increase to cover the basic costs.

Despite his campaign promises, Newsom hasn’t pushed for a new version of S.B. 562 since taking office.

Instead, Newsom has proposed a state-level “individual mandate” requiring Californians to have health insurance. He has also pitched state-funded health insurance for illegal aliens, and he says he wants to explore ways to lower prescription drug spending by having all state agencies purchase drugs together in bulk. Activists are urging him to support 20 bills that would bring California closer to universal government health care. 

Supporters Unwilling to Pay 

Universal government health insurance programs face a key obstacle, says John C. Goodman, president of the Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research and a senior fellow at the Independent Institute.

“If you ask people if everyone should have health insurance, they answer yes, but then if you ask them how much they would pay of their own money to achieve this goal, it’s about $100,” Goodman said. “People think the goal is admirable, but they don’t want to commit any of their own money to it.”

That’s the problem universal health care coverage has had regardless of people’s expressed sentiments, says Goodman.

“It got defeated 4-1 in Colorado, it was defeated in Vermont, and everywhere this has come up, they get huge voter resistance.”

Kenneth Artz( writes from Dallas, Texas.

Artz has more than 20 years’ experience in nonprofit organizations, publishing, newspaper reporting, and public policy advocacy. @@KennethArtz