In February 2022, Assemblyman Ash Kalra pulled his bill — AB1400: Guaranteed Health Care for All — from an Assembly vote. After a year’s study, the HC4A Commission, a government-appointed task force, concluded AB 1400 would provide the greatest therapeutic benefits in the most cost-effective way for all Californians. Moreover, the commission characterized the present system as plagued with huge service inequities, coverage gaps, restricted access to care, and administrative complexity. Yet votes for passage were lacking. Why?
First, AB1400 would be tax-funded, so tax opponents raised the usual stink. But the tax burden would cost Californians considerably less than they currently pay in insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays, costs not covered by insurance, prescription drugs, and foregone wages. Estimated 2022 costs of California health care are $517 billion. AB 1400 would cost $400 billion/year–or ~$3,400 less per person per year. HCA also found health care costs are the biggest “tax” on middle income families—gobbling up 25-40 % of households’ income. AB1400 would have lessened Californians’ financial burden.
Second, private, for-profit insurance companies objected. The current system allows providers and insurers to set their own fees. To what end? In 2021 Kaiser Permanente netted $8.1 billion in profit; in 2017 total compensation for Kaiser’s CEO = $16,082,753. A single-payer approach sets uniform costs, eliminating this unrestrained freedom–freedom paid for by insurance premiums rising 22% in the last 5 years.
Before you vote in June — and November, find out how your Assemblyman would have voted for AB 1400.
— Becky Cox-White, Chico