Paying for universal health care

Dr.-Arthur-H.-Coleman-81-house-call-to-Sam-Jordan-0501-by-Carlos-Avila-Gonzalez-SF-Chron, Paying for universal health care, Local News & Views
It’s time for the Black community to raise our voices and tell those in power to make universal health care reality now! Nowhere is the need more acute than for Black people, whose bodies and minds are under incessant racist attack. And nowhere is it more urgent, especially with an eviction pandemic looming that will force Black families to live – and die – on the streets. Health care providers who truly care and community leaders who dare to speak truth to power must step forward. Let Dr. Arthur Coleman, shown here on a house call in 2001 to tend to his friend Sam Jordan – both legendary leaders died within the following two years – demonstrate what truly caring healthcare looks like. – Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, SF Chronicle

by Barry Hermanson

How do we pay for it? That question, more than anything else, stopped Assembly Bill 1400 (Guaranteed Health Care for All) from moving forward in the California Legislature earlier this year. The author, Assemblyman Ash Kalra, plans to resubmit it when the Legislature reconvenes in January. When he does, AB 1400 must be approved by the Assembly within 30 days. A representative in Kalra’s office told me he is working on the missing financing and taxation plan. 

How do we pay for it? It is perhaps the most contentious part of health care legislation. Much more than 30 days are needed for debate. Waiting until January makes it very likely AB 1400 will not be approved. If Assemblyman Kalra makes the details of the financing and taxation plan available to the public before January, it will give healthcare activists more time to lobby their representatives. It could help AB 1400 pass. 

I attended the Sept. 23 meeting of the Healthy California for All Commission. The commission is working “to develop a plan for advancing progress toward achieving a health care delivery system for California that provides coverage and access through a unified financing system, including, but not limited to a single payer financing system.” 

The main agenda item on the 23rd was discussing state and federal relationships and financing mechanisms. Being able to include federal Medicare and Medi-Cal (Medicaid) funds was the chief concern of the commissioners. They received a report indicating California must pass legislation before requesting Medicare and Medi-Cal funding be included into California universal health care. The Commission is scheduled to give their final report and recommendations to the governor next February.

Much more than 30 days are needed for debate.

On Friday, the 17th, I received the following text from the David Campos for State Assembly campaign: 

“Hey Barry, this is Raya volunteering for David Campos for State Assembly. A Medicare for All system would provide every single Californian quality care while saving billions of dollars every year. That’s why David’s first bill in Sacramento will be to work with our allies to re-introduce a California Medicare for All system to bring equal access to quality care to every Californian. This is our moment to lead this cause and save lives. Will you join us?” 

There was no mention of Assemblyman Kalra or AB 1400.

A bit of background: San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera will resign and begin work as the general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission on Nov. 1. Assemblyman David Chiu has been appointed city attorney. A special election will be held in the early part of 2022 to choose his replacement. If David Campos is elected, his first bill will not be introduced until January 2023. 

Note: David Chiu was a principal co-author of AB 1400. My representatives, Assemblyman Phil Ting and Sen. Scott Wiener, were two of the five principal co-authors. I have not heard one word about their support for AB 1400. 

On Sept. 14, I received an email message from Assemblyman Ting announcing a “Historic Health Care Expansion.” Beginning May 1, 2022, Medi-Cal insurance will expand to cover an estimated 235,000 undocumented Californians age 50 and over. “Thankfully, due to strong revenues, we have been able to expand healthcare services during the pandemic, reducing the amount of uncompensated care from providers. These changes exemplify our state government’s commitment to equitable health care access for all.” 

Instead of a historic health care expansion like AB 1400, . . . an incremental improvement that is preferred by the leadership of the Democratic Party.

The University of California Berkeley Labor Center projects “Nearly 3.2 million Californians will remain uninsured in 2022. (See The above expansion of Medi-Cal will leave nearly 3 million uninsured. Instead of a historic health care expansion, I view it as an incremental improvement that is preferred by the leadership of the Democratic Party. It is not a “commitment to equitable health care access for all.” Active support for AB 1400 would be.

PNHP (Physicians for a National Healthcare Program) estimates 95 percent of all households would save money with single payer universal health care. Unfortunately, many of the 5 percent who wouldn’t save donate to politicians to influence their positions on health care, including my representatives, Assemblyman Phil Ting ($633,000 campaign donations accepted in 2020) and Sen. Scott Wiener ($199,000). These numbers can be found at the following link, selecting these business classifications: Health non-individuals – Insurance companies, general; Insurance agencies, brokers and agents; Accident and health insurance:,127,126#%5B%7B1%7Cgro=law-eid.

How do we pay for it? Politicians in Sacramento don’t seem eager to talk about it. I believe the issue will be punted to a new legislative session in 2023, after the 2022 mid-term elections. They will continue to punt it until they hear from you and me. 

Nationally, legislation to allow Medicare programs to negotiate lower costs for prescription drugs instead of pharmaceutical companies setting their own prices with little competition did not pass. Why? It was blocked by three Democrats and every Republican. In many other countries, where price negotiation is standard practice, consumers pay much lower prices. Drug companies still make money, but not nearly as much as in the U.S. 

One of the major reasons I registered to vote with the Green Party in 2001 was the support in the party platform for universal health care. Every member of the Green Party supports an Improved Medicare for All. Better health care for everyone. We agree with Peace and Freedom Party members. We want an Improved Medicare for All NOW!

Barry Hermanson is a Green Party of California Coordinating Committee member and a former small business owner. Contact him at or 415-255-9494.