U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been unable to advance a top-down, government takeover of our nation’s health care system, so like-minded California lawmakers attempted a state version that would have ended private health insurance, forced Medicare participants into a new experimental system, and put the government in charge of Californian’s health care. Fortunately for California health care consumers, the proposal—called CalCare—failed to secure enough votes, sending single-payer advocates back to square one.
This should be a wake-up call for Californians who cherish health care freedom and choice. Had CalCare passed, Californians would have seen a dramatic rise in their cost-of-living, increased state deficits and critical healthcare wait times, and exacerbated doctor shortages.
The current California state budget proposal for the fiscal year 2022 is $286 billion. A 2017 single-payer proposal similar to CalCare had an estimated $400 billion price tag, more than the entire state budget.
To pay for CalCare, supporters had proposed the largest tax increase in California history, roughly doubling taxes and taking another $12,250 from every state household, according to the Tax Foundation.
This tax hike plan included a new graduated payroll tax system with the top rate kicking in for employees with only $49,990 of income, a gross receipts tax on businesses, and additional surtaxes on income over $149,509.
While this would have been a massive tax increase on the middle class, it was only expected to bring in an additional $163 billion per year, billions short of the funds needed for the new program.
What would Californians get for paying these exorbitant taxes? Not better health care.
Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron said she looked forward to the CalCare debate and “how much taxes will increase on the middle class, how many people will be kicked off their current health care plan, what Democrats will say to the seniors whose Medicare funds will be raided, how long wait times will be, the extent to which bureaucrats will ration care and how many hospitals will close.
“I look forward to hearing Democrats explain how they plan to successfully take over more than 10 percent of the state’s economy when in the last decade they’ve proven themselves incapable of simple things like building a railroad, providing clean drinking water, keeping the lights on and filling potholes.”
The editors of the Orange County Register agreed. “It’d be one thing for the state of California to consider such a sweeping endeavor with a consistent track record of immense success, transparency, and efficiency,” they wrote in a recent editorial.
“It’s another when the state can’t figure out the basics of state government. Health care, obviously, is very important. It is often literally a matter of life and death. . . This isn’t a ban on plastic straws we’re talking about.”
Steep cost-of-living increase due to the rising taxes as well as pay cuts that medical practitioners could have expected under a single-payer system would have increased California’s doctor shortage. Even the New York Times acknowledged doctors would likely have to take pay cuts under a government-run system stating that “analysts across the board agree single-payer would cut revenue for doctors.” Just as other businesses are leaving California for more business-friendly states, tax increases and revenue cuts would have caused California doctors to take their expertise and experience elsewhere.
Instead of limiting choice under a single-payer system, states should expand the options available to individuals. Whether it’s expanding telehealth, allowing doctors and nurses to practice across state lines, and repealing needless restrictions like certificate-of-need laws that prevent hospitals from expanding to meet patient demand, people need more options not less. Instead of a one-size-fits-all public option, we need a strong personal option, so people have greater control over their healthcare.
The saying, “as California goes, so goes the nation,” refers to California’s role as a social and political trendsetter. If California goes forward with a government-run healthcare system, the citizens of other states would be well advised not to go along.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Dr. Del Meyer is an NIH trained pulmonary physician in Sacramento who has spent 45-years managing pulmonary patients.