NewsIn-Depth

Actions

In-Depth: California could offer statewide health care for all

Legislature to vote on "CalCare" program
healthcare jobs
Posted at 8:40 AM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 11:49:36-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Every person in California could soon get health care paid for by the state.

On Monday, the state Legislature is expected to vote on AB 1400, a bill to create "CalCare" — a statewide, single-payer healthcare plan to cover every California resident.

"The reality is that our health care system has far too many gaps even for those that do have insurance," says Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-27), who wrote the bill.

In addition to primary health care, CalCare would cover prescription drugs, medical devices, mental health services, dentistry, vision care, emergency services and transportation, hospice and skilled nursing facility care, dialysis, and pre/post-natal care.

Recent studies show that 7% of people in the state don't have any health care. And Kalra says the current form of health insurance still has significant gaps for people with coverage.

"We want to get rid of that," he says. "Let's get rid of premiums, copays, and detach health care from employment altogether, which is an incredibly inefficient, archaic way to do it."

But a bill analysis shows CalCare would cost the state around $400 billion. And AB 1400 only provides the framework for the system.

To get the money, Kalra and other legislators proposed ACA 11, a separate Constitutional Amendment bill that would give the state control over all Medi-Cal and Medicare funds. It would also create a handful of new taxes.

According to ACA 11, every business with a revenue of more than two million dollars would pay a 2.3% excise tax on their gross receipts.

Any business with more than 50 employees would also pay a 1.5% payroll tax.

Businesses would face another 1% payroll tax for each employee making more than 49,900 dollars.

And people who make more than $149,509 would face a progressive income tax. It would start at 0.5% and go up to 2.5% for anyone earning around $2.5 million or more.

Because it creates new taxes, voters would have to approve ACA 11 with a 2/3 majority in an upcoming election.

"It's unfortunate," says Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R-75). "Because high taxes are going to result from this, and we're going to see less care."

Waldron points out the $400 billion price tag is more than the entire state budget that Gov. Gavin Newsom just proposed.

"Bureaucrats like the ones who run the DMV and the Employment Development Department known as EDD will be in charge of people's health care," Waldron says. "The problem is, the system is broken. But instead of creating this bigger bureaucratic system based on the existing problems we have, we should go back and look at a couple of things."

Waldron says it would be better to find out why 7% of Californians still aren't insured and fix that issue. She also says streamlining the current system while adding more transparency and accountability will help.

She and other Republicans in the Legislature launched an online petition for people who oppose the bill.

Kalra believes CalCare will state the state money on health care by eliminating profit from the industry and cutting administrative costs and fraud.

"We're already being fleeced," Kalra says. "We're already spending a fortune right now for the current system that's ineffectual and immoral in many ways. And we can do better."

AB 1400 still has a long way to go before CalCare can begin.

Because AB 1400 was introduced during the 2021 Legislative Session, it must pass the Assembly by Jan. 31, 2022, or the bill will be considered "dead" for the session.

If it passes, the Senate must also approve it, and the governor must sign the bill.

Then voters will have to pass ACA 11. If any of those don't happen, CalCare will fail.