Flags over state Capitol
Flags over the California Capitol in Sacramento. Courtesy of Sen. Toni Atkins’ office

A union-backed bill to end private health insurance and create a massive state-funded system in California died in the Assembly on Monday.

Assembly Bill 1400 would have replaced the current mixed system of private- and employer-paid health insurance supplemented by Medi-Cal and the Affordable Care Act with a single-payer health system.

CalCare, as the single-payer system would be called, was predicted to cost nearly $400 billion a year — twice the state’s current total budget. It was to be paid for with tax hikes on businesses and high-income residents.

The bill’s principal author, Ash Kalra of San Jose, withdrew the legislation, saying it did not have enough votes.

“Although the bill did not pass the Assembly by today’s deadline, this is only a pause for the single-payer movement; our coalition, including the mighty California Nurses Association, will continue the fight for accessible, affordable, and equitable healthcare for all Californians,” Kalra said in a statement.

But the union accused Kalra of “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.”

“Nurses condemn this failure by elected representatives to put patients above profits, especially during the worst surge of COVID-19 yet, at a time when it’s more clear than ever before that health care must be a right, not just a privilege for those who can afford it,” the union said.

Republicans in the Assembly were particularly outspoken in opposition to the legislation.

“Most Californians access their care through their employer-funded healthcare plans, Medi-Cal, Medicare, or Covered California, giving them choices not only in plans, but in doctors,” said Assemblymember Suzette Martinez Valladares of Santa Clarita. “AB 1400 abolishes these plans to create a single, government-run healthcare system — effectively eliminating patient choice.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.