Universal healthcare proposal gets first test in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California lawmakers will begin debating on Tuesday whether to create the country’s first universal health care system, a key step in whether the proposal has the backing to pass this year.

Progressives have tried for years to create a universal, government-funded health care system to replace one that relies on private insurance. Voters overwhelmingly rejected a 1994 voting initiative that would have created a universal health care system. Another attempt was passed by the State Senate in 2017, but she died in the State Assembly without any funding plan.

This year, Democrats in the State Assembly introduced two bills: one that would create the universal health care system and set its rules, the other would explain how to pay for everything by raising taxes for some individuals plus wealthy and big business.

The first bill is the one heard on Tuesday before the Assembly Health Committee, where President Jim Wood, a Democrat from Santa Rosa, has already said he will vote for. Because the proposal was presented last year, it must be passed by the state assembly by the end of January to have a chance of becoming law this year.

Universal health care has been debated for decades in the United States, most recently during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary during the campaign of United States Senator Bernie Sanders. But it never came close to being passed in Congress. Vermont state lawmakers have tried and failed to implement their own universal health care system. And the New York State Legislature considered a similar plan.

California fans are adopting a divisive-and-conquer strategy this year. They hope that separating the idea of ​​a universal health care system from the question of how to pay for it will give them a better chance of pushing the bills through and eventually getting voters to approve it.

“We can debate politics. If someone says, “How are we going to pay for this? “Well, they’re two different issues now,” said Congressman Ash Kalra, Democrat of San José and author of the two proposals. “If we can agree on a policy and get it passed, then it becomes more real. Then you tell voters what they are voting for. It’s really important.

Opponents, however, are determined to keep the two issues together.

“In the Health Committee, I look forward to a solid discussion of the impacts of socialized medicine in California, including: how many taxes will rise on the middle class,” said the Republican Assembly leader Marie Waldron.

The plan for universal health care requires at least a two-thirds vote in both houses of the state legislature. After that, voters must approve it in a statewide election. Democrats have large majorities, but it will be difficult to get them to support all of the tax increases needed to pay for the plan. The California Taxpayers Association, which opposes the plan, said it would raise taxes for businesses and individuals by $ 163 billion a year.