The Speaker of the State Assembly has called for a select committee to determine the future of SB 562, The Healthy California Act, which was developed and introduced to institute a single payer system for California in order to insure all California residents receive equitable health coverage and care. The Speaker has said, “It’s not a question of debating whether we move towards health care for all--it’s a matter of choosing how best and how soon.” Like the California Nurse’s Association, we are concerned that the Speaker is using this as an opportunity to avoid the advancement of SB562 while appearing to advocate universal healthcare. Unless this committee will allow for an open discussion and development of a single payer option without co-pays, this is a step backwards.
Our healthcare system has been built on a profit motive that puts the greatest burden on the poor, women, people of color, and those outside metropolitan or suburban areas. Within California, almost 3 million people lack any health coverage and around 12 million more remain underinsured, burdened with high deductibles or co-pays which prevent them from getting the care and services they need; this is worse than in much of the developed world. These failings of our healthcare system are manufactured by those seeking to profit off people's healthcare needs--30% of all healthcare costs currently go to the preservation of a private insurance system that produces inadequate coverage and prioritizes profit over the health of people. Private insurance companies profit from this system by making bets on the likelihood that a person will need the services for which they are to be covered. These companies are designed to value profit over both humanity and efficiency, and as such, cannot be part of a wholly just healthcare system.
We demand a healthcare system that works for all California residents, that prioritizes well-being over profit, reduces human misery and suffering, and combats the rampant socioeconomic inequality we face. Single payer upholds this ideal by codifying healthcare as a human right and a public good. There is no alternative healthcare system that can better achieve these ends.The passage of SB 562 would move us toward a more equitable, compassionate and efficient system by providing healthcare to everyone within the state. This would improve the standard of living for many people while dramatically reducing human misery and the number of avoidable deaths that occur. The economic analysis of SB562 produced by the University of Amherst shows that instituting single payer would reduce the amount spent on healthcare by all but the top 10% of the economic spectrum, whose total healthcare spending on average would still remain below 1% of their total income.
The select committee is scheduled to have only three hearings in Sacramento, and we are concerned that this decision is contrary to maintaining a transparent and open democratic process. In particular, we believe that the perspectives of those who suffer the greatest burdens of our healthcare system will remain underrepresented while the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies will have undue influence on proceedings.
There is widespread popular support for single payer--over 70% of Californians are in favor of instituting single payer, and we believe that single payer offers the most promising path toward a solution to the increasingly urgent healthcare crisis. In light of these considerations, we urge the select committee members to recognize the foundational role that healthcare plays in the development and maintenance of a good society and to move California forward in adopting a single payer policy.
To express our discontent we sent the below letter to the committee urging them to consider SB-562:
In our capacity as universal healthcare activists with the Democratic Socialists of America, we urge you to consider SB-562, a bill which would create a single-payer healthcare system for the State of California. The purpose of your committee and its hearings is to explore and discuss avenues toward universal healthcare, and we strongly contend that single-payer is the only structure capable of satisfying that goal.
We commend the work of California lawmakers that has already had a more positive impact on healthcare distribution than is seen in most states: their commitment to California’s Medicaid expansion and individual exchange market under the Affordable Care Act extended coverage to millions of residents, and our state also offers considerable access to services through various public health programs. However, over three million residents remain uninsured, and broad swaths of those who are have such meager coverage that they hesitate to seek medical care, or are threatened with severe financial hardship when they do.
A single-payer healthcare system would ameliorate much of the pain endured by patients, which the Affordable Care Act failed to satisfactorily address. The American healthcare system stands alone among nations of the developed world in uninsurance and underinsurance rates, incidence of medical bankruptcy, and deaths due to lack of access to care. Americans also spend more per capita on healthcare than any other country, but still see major disparities in health outcomes between the rich and poor.
That such injustices are a fact of life in the richest society in human history has galvanized our fight for an equitable, universal system that provides comprehensive medical care that is free at the point of service. A single-payer system, as laid out by SB-562, is uniquely equipped to make this vision a reality. The Affordable Care Act, though superior to the less regulated and more privatized system that preceded it, does not offer a framework by which care can ever be universalized. Besides excluding millions of our undocumented neighbors, the ACA still relies too heavily on private insurers that buoy profits by imposing punitive cost-sharing measures. More insidiously, it maintains an employer-based system that entrenches different levels of health security for different people based on employment status. This casts insurance coverage for those who don’t receive these benefits through employment as an individual responsibility, a reality deeply antithetical to our vision of universal care for all. No measure to improve the ACA will undo this fundamental problem.
In a highly unequal society, a single-payer healthcare system is the only method by which to provide care fairly to those who need it. We urge the California legislature to consider SB-562, and to act on their expressed commitment to extend full coverage to all Californians.
DSA - LA Healthcare Committee