Why California’s Cowardly Democrats Scurried Away From Single-Payer
The corporations flexed their muscle—and won—even in this very progressive state. That’s because it was never about better health care or taxes, but corporate power.
Hey Friend — Today, I’m sharing with you my most recent piece in The New Republic. Here’s a preview of the piece, you can read the rest at newrepublic.com
Two weeks ago, Assembly Bill 1400, a bill that would have cleared a pathway for single-payer, Medicare for All–style health care for the good people of California in the form of “CalCare,” suffered an ignominious death. Its lead sponsor, Assemblymember Ash Kalra of San Jose, elected not to even bring the bill to a vote. “It became clear that we did not have the votes necessary for passage, and I decided the best course of action is to not put A.B. 1400 for a vote today,” he said.
This is California we’re talking about—possibly the most progressive state in the nation, at least west of Vermont. Democrats hold a supermajority in the House. The California Democratic Party platform explicitly claims to support “single-payer” health care. It’s a state where 95 percent of the public believes that “making sure all Californians have access to health insurance coverage” is important. And yet Democrats couldn’t pass single-payer health care.
That’s because it wasn’t about health care or the taxes to pay for it at all. It was about the remarkable power corporations continue to wield over elected Democrats.
In response to CalCare’s failure, the California Nurses Association, longtime supporters of single-payer health care, noted Kalra’s unwillingness to expose his colleagues—that he chose to “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.” And that’s exactly it. CalCare was murdered like Caesar: betrayed by its ostensible allies, all of whom participated so that none of them could be fully blamed.
Why the betrayal? Because the bill was a nonstarter for California’s most powerful business groups. The California Chamber of Commerce led a coalition of 122 business groups in opposition to the bill. Opposition was the most vehement from the groups representing Big Health Care, including the California Association of Health Plans, the California Hospital Association, the California Medical Association, and the California Agents and Health Insurance Professionals. And these are the groups from whom too many Democrats take donations … and political orders….