Wednesday, October 4, 2023

California Passes Bill Taking Steps Towards Universal Healthcare, Doubling Taxes

'California must continue our progress toward universal health coverage...'

(Kenneth Schrupp, The Center Square) A bill requiring California to take steps towards clearing regulatory hurdles for a universal government healthcare system now heads to the governor’s desk for approval. Such a system would, according to analysis from the Tax Foundation, increase state taxes by over $12,000 per household.

SB 770, authored by Senator Scott Wiener, D–San Francisco, would require the California Health and Human Services Agency to pursue discussions on a concrete timeline with the federal government to establish a unified healthcare financing system, including allowing federal Medicare and Medicaid funds to be used in system funding, to provide universal health coverage in California.

“California must continue our progress toward universal health coverage,” said Wiener in a press release. “SB 770 advances that goal by requiring the state to rapidly gather information about our options for securing federal healthcare funding streams. This information will be critical to construct a policy framework for any universal healthcare system, including single-payer.”

In an opposition letter to the bill, the California Chamber of Commerce claimed the legislation would end up forcing all state residents onto a single, government-run healthcare system.

“SB 770’s ultimate goal is to force all Californians out of their existing health coverage — including Medicare, employer-based coverage and ACA [Affordable Care Act] plans— and into a new untested government-run system, with no ability to opt out or choose private coverage instead,” the Chamber said.

Single payer would cost an estimated $500 billion per year. If California is able to use federal healthcare spending on Medicare and Medicaid towards its single payer system, the additional annual cost to the state would still be $300 billion, or the equivalent of the state’s fiscal year 2023-2024 budget, and thus require a doubling of taxes — or an increase of an estimated $12,250 per household.

Meanwhile, Democrats opposed to Wiener’s measure said it doesn’t go far enough towards more rapidly establishing universal healthcare, and that the state ought to adopt such a system first before asking for waivers to use federal funding for such a system.

“Advanced discussions can be helpful, but, nothing stops legislators or the administration from having those conversations now,” said Assemblymember Ash Kalra, D-San José, author of a bill to adopt universal healthcare that did not pass, in a letter opposing SB 770. “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.”

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