California Bill Guaranteeing 'Medicare for ALL' Passes First Hurdle

Members of California Nurses Association march to the State Capitol to support SB 562. (Credit: HealthyCaliforniaAct.org)

California lawmakers took their first look in April at establishing a “Medicare for ALL” healthcare system, and labor unions were in strong support.

The California Senate Health Committee discussed SB 562, the Healthy California Act, which is being sponsored by Sens. Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins. Right before the hearing, our sisters and brothers from the California Nurses Association and Healthy California Coalition—of which AFSCME Council 57 is a member—led a rally and march to the State Capitol to support the proposal.

“Thank you for carrying on this fight for universal healthcare for so long because it is the right and moral thing to do,” Lara said to the crowd of supporters who gathered in Sacramento to support SB 562. “We’re here to make sure California becomes the first state to have a single-payer system.”

According to details from the bill, the measure would guarantee health coverage with no out-of-pocket costs for all residents of California, including undocumented immigrants. Private insurers would be barred from covering the same services. In place of private insurers, a new state agency would contract with health care providers such as doctors and hospitals and pay the bills for everyone.

While controversial, a “Medicare for ALL” type of system is California’s next bold step in taking on the President’s administration and the Republican-led Congress who continue to struggle with their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Earlier in April, Council 57 submitted a letter in support of SB 562 to show that our members support the Healthy California Act and support guaranteeing that every resident of California can receive comprehensive healthcare services.

In particular, we like the proposal because it provides a single high standard of safe, therapeutic care for all California residents in a manner that is financially sustainable. Some of benefits include:

Passing a bill like this would have tremendous benefits for AFSCME members’ jobs, families and communities.

“Year in and year out healthcare is identified as the most pressing concern of AFSCME members. At the same time premiums and co-pay increases have cut into wages, quality or access to healthcare has declined for many,” former Council 57 President Cynthia McCabe said in the letter. “We believe that bold steps are necessary to address a healthcare system that increasingly does not work for our members and their families.”

The bill still has to clear the rest of the State Senate, State Assembly and Gov. Jerry Brown. There are also talks of preparing for a ballot measure in 2018 to coincide with governor’s race. In the coming months, we will continue to work with our coalition on moving this issue forward.

To show your support for SB 562 and guaranteed healthcare for all Californians, sign this petition.