June 2, 2017; The Nation
California committed itself early in the Trump Presidency to acting as an alternative—modeling at the state level alternate proposals to those introduced at the federal level.
Last Thursday, the California Senate passed single-payer universal health care. SB 562 passed 23 to 14. The bill still needs to be approved by the California State Assembly and Governor Jerry Brown, and budget plans need to be developed, but a hurdle has been cleared.
An article in the Los Angeles Times last month said, “Under the bill, the state would cover medical care for every resident in California, including those without legal immigration status. Enrollees would not have to pay premiums, co-payments or deductibles.”
A review of the proposal by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that it “would produce substantial savings for households in health care costs as a share of their income, and California businesses, which would also see reduced payroll costs for health care expenditures.”
RoseAnn DeMoro, Executive Director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, which led the “Healthy California Act” campaign, said, “This is a banner day for California, and a moral model for the nation.”
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There was a time when Donald Trump praised single-payer healthcare. In 2000, “he advocated for it as both a potential Reform Party presidential candidate and in his book, The America We Deserve.” He wrote, “We must have universal health care. Just imagine the improved quality of life for our society as a whole.” But this was when he was a potential Reform party presidential candidate.
As a Republican President, however, he “has aligned himself with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s scheme to make health a privilege rather than a right—and to use a ‘reform’ of the Affordable Care Act as a vehicle to reward wealthy campaign donors with tax cuts and sweetheart deals.”
Nevertheless, according to a recent Pew study, “ percent of Americans believe the government should guarantee health care…and even Republicans have moved toward this position.” In an article last week in The Nation, John Nichols wrote, “The movement for single payer is for real, and it’s winning in California.”
According to a legislative analysis released Monday, a single-payer California health care system is expected to cost $400 billion a year, almost twice the entire 2015 state government budget of $210.9 billion, according to Ballotpedia. Of that, $200 billion of existing federal, state, and local funds would be redirected towards this system. The remaining $200 billion would come from new taxes. A new 15 percent payroll tax on employers could provide the necessary revenue.
The measure does not contain a specific tax proposal, which would require a two-thirds vote to pass. However, the new proposed system would likely reduce spending by employers and employees, “which currently ranges between $100 billion and $150 billion annually.” Taking this into consideration, the new spending would actually be between $50 billion and $100 billion a year.
DeMoro said, “We’ve shown that healthcare is not only a humanitarian imperative for the nation, it is politically feasible, and it is even the fiscally responsible step to take.”—Cyndi Suarez