Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The California Assembly passed a bill on a party-line vote yesterday that would eliminate private health care and force Californians into a single-payer state-run medical system. It now falls to Arnold Schwarzenegger to determine whether he will reverse his previous stand against state-run health care or adopt the Golden State version of HillaryCare (via CQ reader Kurt K):

The Democratic-controlled Legislature is on the verge of sending Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill that would create a state-run universal health care system, testing him on an issue that voters rate as one of their top concerns in this election year.

On a largely party-line 43-30 vote, the Assembly approved a bill by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, that would eliminate private medical insurance plans and establish a statewide health insurance system that would provide coverage to all Californians. The state Senate has already approved the plan once and is expected this week to approve changes that the Assembly made to the bill.

Schwarzenegger has said he opposes a single-payer plan like the one Kuehl's bill would create, but the governor has not offered his own alternatives for fixing the state's health care system. As many as 7 million people are uninsured in the state, and spiraling costs have put pressure on business and consumers. ...

"I don't believe that government should be getting in there and should start running a health care system that is kind of done and worked on by government," Schwarzenegger said in July at a speech at the Commonwealth Club. "I think that what we should do is be a facilitator, to make the health care costs come down. The sad story in America is that our health care costs are too high, that everyone cannot afford health care."

Previous California legislation on workers-comp protection and workplace regulation helped start an exodus of corporate headquarters for better business environments. Creating a whole new bureaucracy for health management and putting rationing decisions in the hands of bureaucrats may start a new exodus of healthy people looking for less-intrusive and less-costly tax regimes. Despite the long wait times for anything but primary care issues in single-payer nations such as Canada and the UK -- the latter of which has to destroy organs for lack of doctors to transplant them -- California wants to add to its already top-heavy bureaucracies and add more budget-busting entitlements to a budget that resembles science fiction.

Hillary Clinton tried to foist the same system onto the entire country, and the nation reacted by ending forty years of Democratic domination in the House. Perhaps the same result could come from this irresponsible social engineering project. When people start to understand that they just created a DMV for health care, California voters may just revolt against the entrenched Democratic power structure. Even the Democratic nominee for goverrnor won't endorse the Kuehl bill. Phil Angelides wanted to push more health-care mandates onto the private sector instead, a bad idea but nowhere near as disastrous as this.

In a move typical of the myopic state legislature, the bill doesn't even address the costs that the new bureaucracy will create. The Assembly noted that it will take several years to implement the mandate -- which means that they're going to pass the buck to another group of legislators. Term limits keeps Assembly members from serving more than six years, which means damned few of the culprits will be around to account for the massive bill that will come. However, they have considered revenue streams for the new regime -- an additional 8 percent on the payroll tax that businesses pay and a 3 point hike on the state income tax. That will come before the sunset of the health-care plans that businesses and their employees buy, creating an overlap of costs -- and that assumes that the revenue stream will be enough to pay for the massive spending necessary for the state-run system.

People around the country may shrug this off, figuring that it's just California. However, don't be surprised to see utopians in your neighborhood heralding the coming Brave New World in the Golden State and agitating for the same system where you live.

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