Healthy California Gets Boost

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All proposal should help ignite even more interest in the movement to establish a single-payer system in California.

Healthy California, one of the main organizations promoting universal health care in the country’s largest populated state, has enthusiastically endorsed the Sanders’ proposal and plans to ramp up its own campaign, which was stalled when Senate Bill 562 was pulled from consideration this year by House Speaker Anthony Rendon.

In a recent email to its supporters, Healthy California discussed the growing support for a Medicare-for-All system.

We have known for decades that a single payer system like Medicare for all will save billions and save lives, but even with massive support in the Democratic party (80%), democratic leaders have been slow to lead. This is clearly changing and it’s a direct result of our incredible work to build the grassroots energy around Medicare for All.

Despite the expansion of medical access under the Affordable Care Act, the country’s health care system remains in a shambles in terms of costs and access and is unsustainable. The United States is the only leading industrialized country in the world without guaranteed medical access. The costs in our system for patients, inflated by the profits collected by private insurers, are rising and will continue to rise.

According to Sanders:

. . . the truth is the insurance companies and drug companies in this country are extraordinarily powerful and they are not going down without a fight. They have obscene amounts of wealth and have used that money to protect a dysfunctional system that allows them to make billions in profits while leaving far too many Americans behind.

The debate is really over on the issue. The only solution is an inclusive system that values all lives. The money paid to insurance companies by individuals and employers should be repurposed as taxes to fund a system. It would cost less, and we could become a much healthier society.

There are obviously people who have decent health insurance paid by their employers, but countless others with health insurance pay huge premiums for dependents, deal with large deductibles and face rising co-pays. Those people with huge premiums are growing, along with profits for insurance companies. It’s a cruel system that favors the wealthy and the lucky.

California’s U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is one of the 15 Senators co-sponsoring the bill with Sanders, an action which has also given a boost to the state movement.

It’s unlikely the Medicare-for-All bill will succeed in the Republican-controlled Congress, and Donald Trump has called it a “curse,” but at least it starts a conversation. It also draws attention to the single-payer movement in California. If California can successfully implement Medicare for all, it would serve as a model for other states. The state of New York is also considering single-payer coverage.

SB 562, which would create universal health care in California, was pulled from consideration by Assembly Speaker Rendon after the California Senate approved it. Rendon was concerned about how the initiative would be funded. Gov. Jerry Brown, who once supported universal health care, was also skeptical.

But that was months ago, and the political climate has changed. Both Rendon and Brown, who are Democrats, need to change their minds on single payer and join with Harris and others who believe health care is a basic human right. It’s especially surprising that Brown, known as an innovative liberal, isn’t backing Healthy California. He has to know it’s the moral and just thing to do. Everyone gets it that funding is the issue, but so much money now goes into the system—the U.S. by far spends more on health care per capita than other countries— that it’s not difficult to imagine repurposing it in a fairer and just manner.

Sanders’ bill and the Healthy California movement shows there’s reason for hope that logic will eventually prevail in how we provide health care in this country.

Meanwhile, Republican Senators have regrouped after failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act and are planning another attempt to do so. The latest craven proposal would mean millions of Americans would lose health insurance and thus access to health care. Now is the time to speak up.

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