by Marc Sapir MD, MPH
Dear Gov. Brown,
I am one of your 39,300,000 constituents, a citizen. That makes me an unlikely person to be afforded the chance of a meaningful conversation with you, but at least I can write this letter. To begin, as a physician with 45 years providing medical care in clinics in this great state, I have a good deal of confidence that herein I am representing the life and death interests of most of your constituents.
Not only is this my own opinion, but public opinion research tends to validate that Americans and Californians think we need to provide a comprehensive Medicare for All insurance program to all residents – now, not years after the Republicans wipe out the real, if unsustainable gains of the Affordable Care Act. California Senate Bill 562 – passed by our Senate but now blocked from a full Assembly vote by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon – even after handily passing the state Senate – creates the foundation and scaffolding to form a state full-coverage Medicare plan.
Of course, many California citizens may not know that similar bills passed both houses of the California Legislature twice before while Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor. He vetoed them.
And likewise, we can only guess at how few Californians know that you have been resisting Medicare for All legislation the past six years and that you are in cahoots with Anthony Rendon to assure that such a bill doesn’t get to your desk this summer.
My God, if you had to make a public decision on creating a program like the one LBJ tried to get through Congress (in 1965) when he could only get Medicare for the elderly, how would you assuage the wrath of Wall Street, the pols, the insurance and drug industry, the media pundits and puppets who call such ideas potentially disastrous. I know you don’t want to be in that difficult position, but let me ask you just one question:
Do you, hopefully unlike the Republicans in Congress and Mr. Trump, actually believe that we ought to live in a democracy where the will of the people is solicited and honored? Because if you do believe in that notion, even a tiny bit, there is no way you would collude with the Assembly speaker to prevent the Assembly from voting on 562.
Regardless of whatever reservations you and other Democratic Party leaders may have about Medicare for All legislation – and we’ve heard many unsubstantiable attacks that are easy to refute, though that refutation doesn’t belong in this letter – but regardless of whatever reservations you or Anthony Rendon may have, it’s impossible to claim any respect for democracy at all if you won’t let our Assembly vote.
If they fail to pass 562, then at least their constituents will know who is standing where. If they do pass it and then you make your choice to sign or veto, you will have the bully pulpit that the governor has – which neither I, nor the 19,000 members of Physicians for a National Health Program, the Nurses Union or dozens of other organizations, nor your tens of millions of other constituents have.
You will then have had your say as our leader, and the people will have to judge whether or not your argument is compelling. However, unless you immediately ask the speaker to unblock and allow the voices and votes of the duly elected California Assembly to be heard and counted, it is hard to understand how you might imagine yourself a “democrat” with a small “d.” Please do your duty and request that the vote be taken.
Marc Sapir MD, MPH, is a former public health officer in Berkeley and San Mateo County, first medical director, Center for Elders’ Independence, member of Physicians for a National Health Program and Mad as Hell Doctors for Medicare for All, and public citizen. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.