Will Democrats enact universal health care?


Martin-Luther-King-injustice-in-health-care-meme, Will Democrats enact universal health care?, Local News & Views

by Barry Hermanson

Last May, Laura Wells and I wrote a column entitled “Green Party of California condemns Democratic Party ‘betrayal’ for shelving of Guaranteed Health Care for All Act, AB 1400.” The bill will be reintroduced in January. 

AB 1400 must pass out of the Assembly Health Committee by Jan. 14 and the Appropriations Committee by the 21st. The Health Committee is chaired by, up to now, an opponent of universal health care. It must pass out of the full Assembly by the 31st. 

Passing AB 1400 in January will be difficult, if not impossible. It has the potential to impact as much as one fifth of the economy in California. 

I’d like to give a big shout-out to the organizers of National Nurses United/California Nurses Association. They are leading the campaign to continue the AB 1400 legislative discussion beyond Jan. 31. Read more info about the bill and ways to advance it at bit.ly/calcarehandout. 

Two of my representatives in San Francisco, Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Phil Ting, are principal co-authors. Newly sworn in San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu was a principal co-author before he left the Assembly. Will they help pass AB 1400? Will they encourage their colleagues to vote yes? 

If you live in California, will your representatives help? Please take a moment to call your representatives in the California Assembly and the Senate. Health care is a human right! Help pass AB 1400.

Will the Assembly again shelve legislation to improve the health and care of their constituents? If AB 1400 doesn’t pass, what then? 

The final report to the governor and legislature from the Healthy California for All Commission is due in February. They have been working to “develop a plan for advancing progress toward achieving a health care delivery system for California that provides coverage and access through a unified financing system, including, but not limited to a single payer financing system.” See https://www.chhs.ca.gov/healthycaforall/.

Only a few members of the commission are universal healthcare advocates. I will not be surprised if the report contains numerous ways for private, for-profit companies to make money.

The next opportunity to introduce and move legislation through Sacramento will be early in 2023. Constituent health care will be off the legislative agenda in California for 2022. 

. . . allowing DCEs to keep as profit what they don’t pay for in care.

On a national level, 118 of 221 Democrats in the House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 1976, the Medicare for All Act of 2021. The latest action? “House – 05/18/2021 Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1976/cosponsors).

A Medicare Direct Contracting program has recently been getting press. The Trump administration began it; Biden is continuing it. “DC is a pilot program that aims to enroll every Traditional Medicare beneficiary into a third-party ‘Direct Contracting Entity’ (DCE). 

Instead of paying doctors and hospitals directly for care, Medicare gives DCEs a monthly payment to cover a defined portion of each senior’s medical expenses, allowing DCEs to keep as profit what they don’t pay for in care.” Wall Street profiteers are scrambling to get a piece of the action. More info is available here: https://pnhp.org/system/assets/uploads/2021/11/DCE_OnePagerFinal.pdf?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d18d8a9f-b4f7-40b1-b41e-19872032a9f2 and here: https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/585103-the-biggest-threat-to-medicare-youve-never-even-heard-of?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=a488fd3e-dc01-4cd2-a3cf-2758b5d6f051.

A letter opposing Direct Contracting is circulating in the House of Representatives. Few have signed it. If AB 1400 passes and is implemented, there would be no Direct Contracting of Medicare services in California. 

2022 will be another year of health care organizing in preparation for a new bill in 2023. Will advocates have greater success in ‘23? Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., don’t seem interested in debating health care. If not during a pandemic, when? 

Universal health care will be won at the ballot box, not in a legislature whose members gladly accept political contributions from the health care industry. 

As we pause to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, Jan. 17, I always focus on one quote: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” 

Shocking and inhumane. That’s a good description of health care in the United States today. Register to vote with the Green Party. Greens believe Health Care is a Human Right. Show your support for universal health care. Join us.

Barry Hermanson is a Green Party of California Coordinating Committee member and a former small business owner. Contact him at Barry@Hermansons.com or 415-255-9494.