A bill that would have established the United State’s only government-funded universal health care system expired in the California Assembly on Monday after Democrats were unable to rally enough support to bring it up for a vote before a legislative deadline.
To have a chance of becoming law this year, the bill has to be passed by Monday at midnight. Democrats needed 41 votes to pass the bill, which did not appear insurmountable given that they control 56 of the 80 members in the state Assembly and universal health care has long been a priority for the party.
However, intensive lobbying from corporate groups put pressure on more moderate Democrats, who face difficult re-election contests in newly reconfigured districts this year. In addition, Democrats were missing four members of their caucus, including three of their more liberal members, who had recently resigned to seek other employment.
“The votes were not there today, especially with four democratic vacancies in the Assembly, but we will not give up,” Assemblymember Ash Kalra, a Democrat from San Jose and the bill’s author, stated in a news release.
Kalra’s decision not to put the bill to a vote infuriated his allies in the California Nurses Association, who have been fighting for this law for years, including extensively lobbying for Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s election in 2018. While Kalra sponsored the bill and saw it through two legislative committees before it reached the Assembly floor, the Nurses Association said in a statement that they were “outraged that Kalra opted to just give up on patients across the state.”
For decades, progressives in the United States have fantasised about a universal health-care system. They claim that health care is so expensive because it is paid for by various groups, including patients, insurance companies, employers, and the government. Instead, they argue that the United States’ health-care system should have a single payer — the government — to keep pricing under control and health-care access open to all.