Nurses lead fight for health care for all in CA

The California Nurses Association (CNA) and National Nurses United (NNU) called for rallies and demonstrations to protest a decision by the Speaker of the California State Assembly that could kill a bill that would guarantee health care coverage to all Californians.

SB 562, The Healthy California Act, would establish a single payer health insurance program similar to the federal Medicare program, except that it would provide health insurance to all Californians, not just seniors.

On Friday, June 23, Speaker Anthony Rendon announced that he would not permit the Assembly to consider the bill, which the state Senate passed on June 1.

Deborah Burger, president of CNA and co-president of NNU, condemned Speaker Rendon for acting in secret to protect insurance companies and jeopardizing health care for many Californians who could lose health care coverage if the Republican Congress and President Trump are successful in their efforts to scrap the Affordable Care Act.

“The people of California are counting on the legislature to protect them now, not sometime next year, and as polls have shown Californians support this proposal by a wide majority,” said Burger.

President Trump and the Republican Congress have been working hard to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

As Congress gets ready to adjourn for its July 4 recess, Republicans in the Senate are just a few votes short of the votes needed to pass the Senate version of the Obamacare repeal bill.

If their bill passes, 22 million fewer Americans will have health care insurance by 2026. As many as 2.4 million fewer Californians will have health care coverage.

In California, CNA, NNU, and a coalition of 350 groups called Healthy California aren’t waiting for the Republican hammer to drop on health care.

They’re organizing and fighting for the Healthy California Act.

Earlier in the year, members of the nurses union and other supporters of guaranteed health care for all canvassed neighborhoods to build grassroots support for state legislation that will protect Californians from the health care cuts looming in Washington DC.

These efforts led to a mass base of support for the Healthy California Act.

A recent poll commissioned by CNA found that 70 percent of Californians now support a single payer health care plan like the one proposed in the Healthy California Act.

As a result of the grassroots organizing and popular support for a single payer plan, the Senate passed the Healthy California Act by a vote of 23-14.

After the Senate passed the bill, the insurance lobby stepped up its efforts to prevent passage of the Healthy California Act in the Assembly.

Their pitch is that California can’t afford to guarantee health care for all Californians.

But a recent report by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that the state would actually save money by implementing the Healthy California Act.

“Enacting a single-payer system would yield considerable savings overall by lowering administrative costs, controlling the prices of pharmaceuticals and fees for physicians and hospitals, reducing unnecessary treatments, and expanding preventive care,” wrote Robert Pollin, one of the authors of the report in an opinion piece that appeared in the Los Angeles Times. “We found that Healthy California could ultimately result in savings of about 18 percent, bringing health care spending to about $331 billion, or 8% less than the current $370 billion.”

After Speaker Rendon announced that he would not permit the Assembly to consider the Healthy California Act, the nurses union and Healthy California called on supporters to rally at Speaker Rendon’s Los Angeles office on June 27.

Hundreds of people did so and marched into his office to present the Speaker with personal notes describing why they and other Californians needed heath care for all.

Another demonstration supporting the Healthy California Act is scheduled for Wednesday, June 28 in Sacramento, the state capital.

Burger said that the fight for health care for all in California is not over.

“Thousands of Californians have been in motion for guaranteed health care. They are not finished,” said Burger.