Image of CA Assembly Commitee on Appropriations Chamber

Corporate Democrats Kill CalCare in Committee to Avoid Vote

CalCare, in the form of AB 2200, pointed a path to save the state $135 Billion a year and included programmatic proposals to address healthcare inequalities

“I’m tired of politicians saying they support single-payer but that it’s too soon, too expensive or someone else’s problem.”

Gavin Newsom, while campaigning for Governor, September 22, 2017

May 16, 2023

In the Assembly Committee on Appropriations Committee, it was announced that Assembly Bill 2200 “Guaranteed Healthcare for All,” the latest CalCare legislation policy framework bill to deliver superior care at less cost to all residents in CA, was held in held in suspense, meaning that it was killed without a vote and without elected officials who are members of the committee having to face public accountability.

Asians and Pacific Islanders for CalCare (API for CalCare) find this decision both deplorable and malicious. Deplorable, because Appropriations Chair, Buffy Wicks (D-AD14) who had previously stated support for CalCare, had the main responsibility for its death, but also because there is basis for speculation that the bill was killed in this fashion to provide cover for a supermajority political party controlled by private insurance company campaign financing. Malicious, because it means over 3 million in CA will remain without medical insurance and once again, the state will suffer over 4,000 unnecessary deaths over at least another year. Without CalCare reform, existing healthcare disparities will be exacerbated.

Following the death of the bill, Wicks, in an article in the LA Times was quoted, “We have an obligation to balance the budget in California, there were some tough choices to make.” Yet, AB 2200, as a policy framework-only bill, posed no fiscal burden on the state. This was even confirmed by the Appropriation Committee’s own analysis.

In choosing to kill AB 2200, Wicks’ idea of a proper “fiscal choice” was to continue spending $517 billion on healthcare annually vs. a projected $382 billion under CalCare, a $135 billion differential. Wicks made a choice that was fiscally irresponsible. Statements implying that this was the reason for AB 2200 being held in suspense are disingenuous.

Support for the bill had been growing rapidly due to the efforts of a growing movement of single-payer activists throughout the state. Over 250 endorsements for the CalCare campaign had been registered, including from large unions and the California Labor Federation, in total representing over 4 million CA workers.

graphic: Over 250 CalCare Endorsers as of 240522

Endorsements for CalCare began to mount rapidly as word about AB2200 got out, including from: California Teachers Association (CTA), UAW Region 6, the California School Employees Association (CSEA), UNITE HERE Local 11, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), California Faculty Association (CFA), and the California Labor Federation

The bipartisan majority of voters in CA are disappointed and angry, because they have repeatedly rallied behind Democrats who have professed support for single-payer healthcare reform, but repeatedly block passage of legislation to deliver it. Groups like the California Nurses Association (CNA) supported Gavin Newsom’s bid to become Governor based on his promise to support single payer reform. Also, in 2020, Democratic Party voters delivered a CA Presidential Primary victory to Bernie Sanders, who had “Medicare-for-All,” (single-payer reform) as a centerpiece of his platform.

Assemblymember Ash Kalra, the first ever East Indian elected to the CA Legislature, was confident that the bill had a good chance of winning an Assembly Floor vote.

“I am deeply disappointed the Assembly Appropriations Committee failed to recognize the significant cost-saving potential of AB 2200. Study after study has shown that a single-payer system will not only cost less than our current system, but can safeguard the State from future deficits while stimulating economic growth.

After two years of productive meetings with members, I looked forward to presenting the bill on the Assembly Floor and was confident it would pass. Losing the opportunity to advance the bill this year means further unnecessary delays in healthcare reform, allowing needless suffering and economic injustice to continue harming Californians. I believe healthcare is a human right and I am as dedicated as ever to the movement for single-payer.”   

– Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-AD25)

API for CalCare is particularly incensed because the killing of this bill represented a direct attack on the health of already under-served indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, African American, “Latino” and other populations facing healthcare disparities in the state.

With one of the most diverse population in the U.S., California has a responsibility to address health disparities experienced by historically oppressed peoples who have built its economy. Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity in California: Pattern of Inequity and many other reports confirm that our peoples suffer higher uninsured rates, face barriers of access to health care, and receive worse outcomes. In CA, over 6 million suffer from medical debt, and this debt is worse for people already facing inequalities in other aspects of society.*

The killing of AB 2200 was an assault on efforts to rectify these disparate conditions. CalCare like no other reform legislation in U.S. history, has multiple policy framework components to directly tackle healthcare inequality on a systemic level. CalCare would include diversity representation requirements on multiple administrative and advisory bodies with public input and transparency. CalCare would establish an Office of Health Equity and a Special Projects budget to allocate capital resources to address disparities.

Blue Shield is a “Trusted and Generous Supporter of CA Governor Gavin Newsom

Headline and photo of CA Governor Gavin Newsom title reading "Newsom Awarded the No-Bid Vaccine Contract to Blue Shield, a Trusted and Generous Supporter"

The limitation of service providers to private networks, inadequate quality of, and cost of care combined with denial of services by private insurance gatekeeper are burdens for patients but sources of record profits by corporate insurance companies, and this is precisely why the bill was killed. E.g. culturally-appropriate care or bilingual care is deemed to be “not profitable.” The manner in which it was killed is a reflection of public consensus and growing single-payer movement power. Buffy Wicks, most likely in concert with consultation with Governor Newsom and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, did not want to risk floor votes in favor of AB 2200, because they wanted to protect the for-profit interests of their campaign financiers.

API for CalCare, along with our many allies in the movement to deliver superior healthcare at dramatically reduced costs via single-payer reform, reaffirms our commitment to continuing to build the power of a social movement to win CalCare. We understand that this a difficult and long-term fight, in the tradition of similar fights in U.S. history such as the voting rights act, Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHO), minimal nurse-to-patient ratio standards, the Civil Rights Act and others. Together, by engaging in educational work in our communities, supporting candidates we can trust to support CalCare and holding those that don’t accountable, we are confident that we will win.

graphic of Ash Kalra quote, "CalCare is a movement for healthcare justices.  Movements don't stop because a bill dies. Movements only stop when we stop.  And, we're not stopping."

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graphic: Over 250 CalCare Endorsers as of 240522