January 23, 2022, 6:15 AM
• 13 min read
Earlier this month, a California assembly committee approved two measures to overhaul the state’s health care system and provide coverage to all residents free of charge.
Assembly Bill 1400 would set up “CalCare,” a state-run, statewide system, and Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11 would change the state’s tax code to pay for it through a voter referendum.
The fate of the legislation, which would establish a taxpayer-funded system similar to those in the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan, is likely to be closely watched by policymakers in other states and the federal government as consumers in the country deal with ballooning costs and millions of uninsured people.
A single-payer system at the national level was a topic of debate among Democratic presidential candidates in 2020 and support for the idea has increased in recent years.
“California is a big, diverse place. If you can make it work here, you can make it work anywhere,” Jack Needleman, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, told ABC News.
State leaders on both sides of the aisle, including Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, have supported single payer in theory, they haven’t pledged full support for these new bills.
And if the plan does pass, it would require significant tax changes that can only be authorized by a voter referendum, showing up on a ballot in 2024 at the earliest.
Even if an outcome isn’t reached in the near future, public health experts said the debate could lead to similar bills that close the gap for uninsured Californians.