HEALTH CARE - California is still knee deep in the pandemic, with our health care system working overtime to serve patients.
But even though California residents, businesses and health care workers are struggling to stay afloat, Capitol Democrats are rushing forward with a complete takeover of our health care system.
Their proposal, Assembly Bill 1400, introduced by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, a Democrat from San Jose, will force all Californians onto an untried state-run program administered by unaccountable bureaucrats.
Democrats have pushed government-run health care before with no success – partly because of the astronomical price tag. Estimates set the cost then at $330 billion to $400 billion annually. For perspective, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s entire budget proposal this year is $286 billion.
So how are we going to pay for their proposal this time around?
Details are still murky, but there are two main revenue streams Democrats are eying – tapping into federal health care payments, which would include Medicare, and massive tax increases.
The proposal would require California to seek waivers to redirect federal health care spending into the state-run plan. That means beneficiaries of federal programs such as Medicare would see their funding used to provide services to everyone in California – even those who never paid into the system.
The Democrats’ funding bill, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11, is estimated to raise taxes by a whopping $163 billion, including tax hikes on small businesses and middle-class workers. And because ACA 11 creates an exemption from Prop. 13’s requirement that new taxes pass with a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, if this new scheme runs short on money, Democrats will have a blank check to increase taxes with a simple majority vote.
Californians are already struggling with the cost of living here – the state ranks as one of the highest in the nation – and new middle-class taxes will push even more families out of state, leaving fewer taxpayers to fund our ever-growing list of programs.
For those who stay, this scheme will force all Californians to be covered by lower quality, government-run coverage. That means no more private insurance, no matter how much you like your plan. You’ll also likely see rationed care and longer wait times for specialty care – just like in other countries with socialized medicine, such as Canada and the U.K.
For a preview of how Democrats’ plan would work, we can look to the state’s existing government-run insurance plan – Medi-Cal. The program is supposed to care for low-income residents, but it’s so poorly run that it’s nearly impossible to get an appointment. Chronic underfunding means few doctors are willing to participate, forcing many patients to use the emergency room for routine care.
Finally, should we really turn our health care system over to state bureaucrats? Nearly every major project California attempts has been a disaster – High Speed Rail has tripled in cost and is a decade behind schedule. Our billion-dollar accounting system upgrade has put the state’s credit rating at risk. The Employment Development Department gave out billions to fraudsters while needy Californians waited for months. And don’t get me started on the DMV.
Despite this long track record of failure, Democrats would have you believe that a government takeover of more than 10% of the state’s economy will go off without a hitch.
If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
We need less government in health care – not more. Instead, let’s unleash the free market, reduce overbearing regulations, bring down costs and insist on transparency and accountability for better patient outcomes.
Californians depend on their health care, and if there’s one thing we all agree on it’s that the current system needs to be fixed. But Democrats’ plan to eliminate competition and put government in charge isn’t the answer. Especially in the middle of a pandemic and affordability crisis, we can’t afford a costly experiment in government control.
(Assemblymember Marie Waldron has also written about making government work effectively and that the Legislature should lead by solving problems. This story was featured in Cal Matters. )