California Single Payer Health Care Bill Dies

Health care and insurance interests also campaigned hard against the bill…………

Single-payer health care bill dies in Assembly

The bill’s author said AB 1400 didn’t have the votes to pass, and didn’t bring it forward Monday.


By Emily Hamann  –  Staff Writer, Sacramento Business Journal

A bill to bring publicly funded universal health care to California is dead, after the bill’s author chose not to put it up for a vote Monday.

“Despite heavy opposition and substantial misinformation from those that stand to profit from our current health care system, we were able to ignite a realistic and achievable path toward single-payer and bring AB 1400 to the floor of the Assembly,” Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), said, in a statement released Monday afternoon. “However, 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.”

Since the bill was introduced in 2021, Monday was the deadline for AB 1400 to pass in the Assembly in order for it to move forward.

AB 1400 would have created CalCare — a single-payer health care plan that would cover everyone in the state — and an independent, nine-member CalCare Board to administer it.

The bill was sponsored by the California Nurses Association, which lambasted Kalra in a statement released Monday.

“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 statement read. “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.”

This is the second time the California Nurses Association has tried, and failed, to get a single-payer health care bill passed through the state Legislature. The union previously tried in 2017, but that bill also died in the Assembly, after Speaker Anthony Rendon refused to bring it up for a vote.

This time around, Rendon said he was “deeply disappointed” that Kalra didn’t bring AB 1400 forward.

“The shortage of votes needed to pass this bill out of the Assembly indicates the immense difficulty of implementing single-payer health care in California,” Rendon said, in a statement. He went on to say he intended to vote in support of the bill, and supports single-payer health care.

“With time, we will have better and more successful legislation to bring us closer to this goal.”

AB 1400 was opposed by business and health insurance interests.

The California Chamber of Commerce led a coalition of 122 business interest groups in opposition to the bill, who largely objected to the proposed funding mechanism for CalCare, which would have come from a $163 billion tax increase. The overall cost could have been between $314 billion and $391 billion, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. That’s in line with how much health care in California costs currently — overall health care spending from all sources was $330 billion in 2021, according to the analysis.

Health care and insurance interests also campaigned hard against the bill. CalChamber’s coalition included some of the largest health insurance companies in the state. The California Hospital Association, the California Medical Association, California Agents & Health Insurance Professionals, American Nurses Association/California, the California Association of Health Plans and America’s Physician Groups also formed a coalition to oppose the bill.

In a statement to the Business Journal, CalChamber spokesperson Denise Davis said the organization was “relieved” that the bill did not move forward.

“We stand ready — alongside a large, diverse and growing coalition — to oppose proposals like AB 1400 that will levy huge taxes on Californians and disrupt the health care that 40 million residents rely on.”