Imagine universal healthcare in California.
What if you never had to pay to see a doctor? What if your medications were free at the point of sale? What if hospital bills were a thing of the past? That’s the promise of the Healthy California Act (SB 562), and that’s our promise too.
SB 562 is a groundbreaking idea. Everyone in California would be covered. Health conditions and immigration status would not be barriers to care. Families would save an average of $1,000 a month. Diabetics would no longer have to worry about getting insulin.
“Californians want a single payer system that puts patients’ health and wellbeing at the center not insurance industry profits.”
– Bonnie Castillo, National Nurses United
So what happened?
The Healthy California Act was introduced to the California Senate in February 2017 by Senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins. California was not the first state to consider covering everyone under a state plan. Hawaii and Vermont both have laws that are effectively single payer healthcare. 17 other states are also considering single payer plans.
SB 562 would put an end to some of the most costly parts of our privatized system. It would end healthcare premiums, saving individuals and families thousands of dollars a year. It would end deductibles that force patients to chose between paying for care or paying the rent. It would guarantee access to medications that save lives.
Maternity and neonatal care would be available to every parent in the state, not just those wealthy enough to afford it. Patients would no longer need to wait for a crisis before seeking treatment. Preventative care and wellness would be guaranteed. Mental healthcare services would be open to everyone.
And by everyone we mean everyone: every person who lives in California would be covered regardless of health conditions or immigration status. Something that even the Affordable Care Act does not guarantee.
People were excited about the possibility of finally bringing relief to 40 million patients. Unions and advocacy groups immediately voiced their support for the idea. The California Nurses Association held rallies across the state and hit the road to spread the word that we would finally see a sane healthcare system. Politicians took to the airwaves to talk about how revolutionary this would be. Patients and caregivers hoped that they would no longer be burdened by high costs that ration care and shorten lives. It looked like we would witness history, as California would become the biggest state to take a stand against the insurance industry.
On June 1st, 2017 the California Senate voted 27 to 14 in favor of SB 562. This meant that the last hurdle the bill needed to clear was the Assembly.
“Which is to say that we will keep pressure on the coward Rendon until his office guarantees that 562 gets a real hearing next year, and barring that we will build the coalition necessary to get every Californian covered as soon as possible.” – KNOCK.LA
All that momentum was brought to a halt by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Rather than allowing our representatives to boldly voice their support for universal healthcare, he chose to shelve the bill. Rendon put the interests of insurance companies above the people of California. Insurance industry allies in Sacramento created excuse after excuse for this failure of leadership.
But that has not stopped the dream of universal healthcare. Doctors, nurses, and patients are still fighting for a system that puts people over profit, not just in California but across the country.
Right now hope is stalled in the state house. Nurses, patients, and caregivers are pushing for change, but our representatives aren’t hearing them. Twice California has failed to move the Healthy California Act towards a full vote, even though 70% of the country supports a single payer system.