Sacramento Democrats kill universal healthcare bill

calcare-rally-for-medicare-1400x792, Sacramento Democrats kill universal healthcare bill, Local News & Views News & Views
Organizers attempt to move universal healthcare legislation forward despite being held back by Sacramento Democrats.

by Barry Hermanson

Once again, a universal healthcare bill in Sacramento has failed to move forward. AB 2200 was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and did not advance to the full Assembly for a vote. There is a long legislative history of bills introduced in Sacramento that have failed to move forward.

When Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor, the Democratic Party-controlled State Assembly and Senate passed universal healthcare legislation twice. Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills. When Democrats Jerry Brown and then Gavin Newsom were elected governor, universal healthcare bills failed to move forward in the Legislature. 

Passing and establishing universal health care in California is a “no brainer,” candidate Gavin Newsom exclaimed. Once in office, he has been silent on the issue.

In February of 2021, Assemblyman Ash Kalra and the California Nurses Association introduced AB 1400. It was wonderful to see that my representatives, Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Phil Ting, were principal coauthors. The other San Francisco Assemblyman at the time, David Chiu, was also a principal coauthor. I took that as concrete evidence of the many years of effective organizing work done by my friend and colleague Don Bechler, who unfortunately passed away in 2020. 

San Francisco voters overwhelmingly support universal health care – and our representatives in Sacramento know it. But, even though they were principal coauthors, constituents never were told about it. Searches of their legislative websites yielded no information about work they were doing to move AB 1400 forward. I came to believe that my representatives were advocates in name only and that they did little, if anything, to secure more votes in the Legislature. 

AB 1400 was heard in the Assembly Health and Appropriations Committees in January of 2022. Each committee voted 11 to 3 in favor and it advanced to a possible vote by the full Assembly. Kalra, claiming he didn’t have the votes, pulled the bill before a vote could be taken. Throughout 2022, the nurses led an effort to elect universal healthcare advocates to the Assembly and Senate. They claimed to have helped elect 30 supporters. 

This year, Assemblyman Kalra believed he had the votes to pass AB 2200. However, Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Buffy Wicks citing the large California budget deficit, did not bring AB 2200 up for a vote. But, AB 2200 was a policy bill with no numbers attached. There would have been little or no financial impact during the next budget year. Clearly, electing more Democrats is not the solution to passing universal health care in California.

The California Nurses released this statement condemning the failure to pass AB 2200:

“Today’s vote is out of touch with the broader public’s support for CalCare. The coalition of organizations that have endorsed the legislation is larger than ever, with 250 organizations endorsing CalCare in 2024, including labor allies such as the California Teachers Association (CTA), UAW Region 6, the California School Employees Association (CSEA), UNITE HERE Local 11, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), California Faculty Association (CFA) and the California Labor Federation. 

“Unions directly endorsing CalCare represent over 1 million workers. The legislation was also endorsed by the California Labor Federation, which collectively represents 2.3 million workers.”

In this presidential election year, it is important to note that President Biden is not a supporter of universal health care. The leadership of the Democratic Party, no doubt, did not want to see universal Health care legislation move forward. If it did, the massive resources of the for-profit healthcare industry might be mobilized against Biden and Democrats at all levels.

Universal healthcare advocates have fought for many years to pass legislation in Sacramento. Next time, we will win. Will we? One thing we haven’t tried is to identify enough voters in each Assembly and Senate district to convince legislators that they could be replaced. Only then will legislators pay attention and make it a priority to pass universal healthcare legislation.

Barry Hermanson is a member of the San Francisco Green Party and a former small business

owner. Contact him at or 415-255-9494.