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$400 Billion Price Tag for California Single-Payer Bill

$400 Billion Price Tag for California Single-Payer Bill

A plan to create a single-payer healthcare system that is now under consideration in the California Legislature would cost $400 billion annually to implement, according to a legislative analysis released by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday.

The entire state general fund budget is $125 billion.

Senate Bill 562, called the Healthy California Act, was introduced in February by Senators Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. "It's the only way to guarantee health care for every Californian in a sustainable way, especially given efforts in Washington to roll back coverage", said Michael Lighty, director of public policy for the California Nurses Association.

Boosters also contend that huge savings would come from eliminating the growing mountain of administrative costs - and high profits - of insurance companies.

Employers, business groups and health plans warned that the tax increases would crush businesses and make it harder for them to expand their workforce in California. “The impact on employers will be astounding, ” Nielsen said.

On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to place the bill in its suspended legislation file. "How can you possibly say this is going to be fiscally prudent for the state of California, not a burden for the state?"

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Of course, the shift to a single-payer system should reduce current spending on health insurance by employers and workers, so those savings could offset some of the new taxes, the analysts said.

Medicare, the federally funded health coverage for seniors, is often held up as a model of what a single-payer system might look like.

The measure envisions using all public money spent on health care - from Medicare, Medicaid, federal public health funds and "Obamacare" subsidies. However, the state would need to raise another $200 billion from tax hikes, according to the analysis.

The rest would come from higher taxes on businesses, residents or both. But additional tax revenue would be needed to foot the other half of the cost, according to the report, which raised the possibility of a 15 percent payroll tax on earned income.

Despite that range of variables, one thing remains constant: state-level single-payer health plans would require massive increases in tax revenue, equal or larger than the amount of revenue consumed by every other state-level program in a single year.

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