A bill to bring publicly funded healthcare to every Californian did not even make it to the floor for a vote, to the delight of opponents who called it a “government healthcare takeover.”
Last night was shaping up for a huge debate in the California Assembly, as a Guaranteed Healthcare For All bill called AB 1400 was set to go before the chamber. The landmark bill would have created the first universal healthcare system in the U.S., for everyone regardless of immigration status. It’s the holy grail of the Medicare For All crowd, while opponents called it “the largest tax increase in state history” and complained it would “degrade our medical services and expand coverage to illegal immigrants.”
The showdown was even more dramatic because the bill had to pass by 11:59 p.m., or else would be shelved for another year.
From a source at the CA Capitol: AB1400, which would give every Californian regardless of citizenship status healthcare, will be presented today, and voting is expected to go late into the night.— Anthony Cabassa (@AnthonyCabassa_) January 31, 2022
If vote is not reached by 11:59pm tonight, bill is dead for the year.
There was no dramatic showdown. The San Francisco Business Times reports that the single-payer healthcare bill was yanked from the floor before any vote was cast. “It became clear that we did not have the votes necessary for passage and I decided the best course of action is to not put AB 1400 for a vote today,” the bill’s author, Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), said in a Monday statement.
Nurses are outraged that the California Assembly, incl. Asm. @Ash_Kalra, gave up on patients across the state today by choosing not to hold a vote on #AB1400.— California Nurses (@CalNurses) February 1, 2022
Nurses NEVER give up on our patients, and we'll keep fighting until our movement wins #CalCare!https://t.co/TSh05cx5Xs
The nurses who’d supported Kalra’s bill seem pissed.
“Today, elected leaders in California had the opportunity to put patients first and set an example for the whole country by passing AB 1400, the California Guaranteed Health Care for All Act, in the State Assembly,” the California Nurses Association said in their own statement. “Instead, Assemblymember Ash Kalra, the main author of the bill, chose not to hold a vote on this bill at all, providing cover for those who would have been forced to go on the record about where they stand on guaranteed health care for all people in California.”
According to The Hill, the bill would have covered the three million Californians (roughly 10% of the state population) that do not have health insurance. But very significantly, the bill did not have any mechanism to pay its estimated $350 billion cost, which supposedly would have been addressed in some future bill.
On single-payer health care, @CAgovernor says "this bill comes out of nowhere." #CalCare— Organize California (@Organize_CA) January 30, 2022
Note: AB 1400 was introduced last year on 2/19/21 and @GavinNewsom explicitly supported the previous bill (SB 562) during his 2018 campaign. @davidsirota
Source: https://t.co/MnOwNSs4R5 pic.twitter.com/sa1BpTlWRJ
Governor Gavin Newsom, who has many times campaigned for universal healthcare, seemed to dislike this bill because it was not his. “This bill comes out of nowhere,” he complained to KTVU. The bill was also opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce, and all the standard anti-tax types.
But really, there was no point to this vote, it was not going to pass, it didn’t have the votes. There was some interest among progressives to put legislators on the record and “see where they stand,” as if there would be some huge electoral blowback in November. That seems unlikely. But there probably will be another version of universal healthcare proposed in the California legislature by then, just as this bill was a do-over of a failed single payer, universal healthcare bill from last year.