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California proposal for universal healthcare bans private care, doubles spending

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(The Center Square) – California lawmakers re-introduced a proposal to mandate universal healthcare and ban private healthcare. Experts say this would cost $391 billion per year — or $100 billion more than the entire 2024-2025 state budget and reduce the overall availability of healthcare as doctors flee to higher-paying states that allow private care.

According to Politico, Assemblymember Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, will introduce a version of his 2023 bill to create a single-payer healthcare system and ban private care. After passing the Assembly’s health and appropriations committees, AB 1400 was shelved by the Assembly Speaker due to lack of a financing mechanism. Kalra’s plan is to pass a bill, see how much the federal government would pay via Medicare and Medicaid contributions, then go to the legislature for remaining funding. It is unclear how to pay for the $300-500 billion bill given the state’s projected $68 billion deficit this year on a $291.5 billion budget.

According to the Tax Foundation, variation in the bill’s cost depends on whether the federal government will allow for use of Medicare and Medicaid funding towards the system. With federal healthcare funding, the additional cost to state taxpayers would be $300 billion, or approximately $12,500 per household — or $500 billion without federal funding.

Healthcare experts say this measure would increase doctor wait times, shortages and strikes in a state public healthcare system already suffering from too few doctors.

In Canada, where private coverage is outlawed, the average wait time from seeing a primary care doctor to getting specialist treatment grew to 27.8 weeks in 2023, the longest on record, said Pacific Research Institute President Sally Pipes to The Center Square.

“There will be a doctor shortage in CA as doctors will face reduced payments for their services as is the case under Medi-Cal. Many of the best doctors will retire early or move to states where they can be paid the market rate for their services,” Pipes said.

“Under Kalra’s bill, there will be no private care allowed. Where will Californians go to get the best and timely medical care?,” continued Pipes.

State. Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, SB 770, passed last year, requires the California Health and Human Services Agency to engage in discussion with the federal government on how it can establish a single-payer healthcare system that uses federal Medicare and Medicaid spending for some of its funding.

Kalra opposed the bill on the grounds that working with the federal government to ensure the state can use its Medicare and Medicaid funding will take too long.

“Advanced discussions can be helpful, but nothing stops legislators or the administration from having those conversations now … It remains clear that we first need to establish the policy and then it will be productive to turn our attention to an in-depth waiver conversation,” said Kalra in a letter.

The proposal would first have to pass the Assembly and Senate before moving to the governor’s desk for approval.