California Single Payer Health Care Rush

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Echoes of California’s fabled Gold Rush can be heard in the proposal for single payer health care—but instead of migrants taking gold nuggets out of the ground, a new Health Care Rush likely would see many people rushing to California to claim taxpayer funded health care.

Much like Samuel Brannan, publisher of San Francisco’s first newspaper, famously shouting, “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” to attract attention to the gold strike, the cry of “free health care” likely would reverberate around the country and the world if the single payer bill becomes law.

The rush would be on.

Senate Bill 562 declares “the intent of the Legislature to establish a comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage program and a health care cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state.” The bill defines resident this way: “Resident” means an individual whose primary place of abode is in the state, without regard to the individual’s immigration status.

Currently, the state’s residency rules provide that you must physically be present in California for 366 days except for brief absences such as vacations and establish ties to the state by getting a California driver’s license or state ID card, register to vote, register a car or some such activity.

If a health care plan with no co-pays, deductibles, insurance premiums and unlimited benefits is an important goal for people outside the state, establishing residence is not a high hurdle.

Studies on the costs of a single payer plan pegged at anywhere from $331 billion to $400 billion seem to be calculated on California’s present population of approximately 39 million residents. How many more residents will the state have if the single payer health care plan is offered?

The Gold Rush jumped the state’s population from 92,597 in the 1850 census to 379,994 in the 1860 census, over a 300% increase. While a similar percentage increase would not happen if the health care plan becomes law, single payer could attract a great many new residents to the Golden Health Care State.

Someone has to pay for it. The bugaboo about the current plan, passed irresponsibly by the state senate with no funding mechanism, has suggested tax increases attached to it—a payroll tax, or a gross receipts tax on business or a sales tax, or combination of all the taxes. The likelihood that new residents seeking health care will provide the resources to cover their share of the cost is unlikely.

The number of new residents pursuing health care under a single payer plan is unknowable, but what is certain is given an expected increase in population, the current cost estimates for the plan are low.

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