Medicare for all in California?

OAKLAND, Calif. –With the support, encouragement and research from National Nurses United, California lawmakers will soon open hearings on proposed legislation to, in effect, enact Medicare for All in the Golden State, the union reported.

The legislation, SB562, called the Healthy California Act, is important for the simple reason that, if enacted and signed into law, it would drastically shake up the U.S. health care non-system, since California is home to one of every eight people in the country.

The California version of Medicare for All, which Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., is reintroducing on a national level in the U.S. Senate, “would expand coverage to everyone – with no debilitating out of pocket costs that drive people to medical bankruptcy or to forgo needed care,” the union says.

And NNU, the most vocal and persistent of the 20-plus unions that back Medicare for All, also suggests SB562 could be a model for other states to enact if they’re tired of waiting for the feds to move. The GOP majority in the U.S. Congress consistently tries to go in the opposite direction, repealing the seven-year-old Affordable Care Act without replacing it.

“At a time of critical disarray of our national healthcare system, California can once again lead the nation,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of both NNU and the union’s state affiliate, the California Nurses Association. “This bill will set a standard in America and be a catalyst for the nation.”

The union says key features of the Healthy California Act include:

• Enrollment of ever eligible Californian, regardless of age, income, employment or other status.

• No out-of-pocket costs, such as high deductibles and co-pays, for covered services.

• Comprehensive coverage, including hospital and outpatient medical care, primary and preventive care, vision, dental, hearing, women’s reproductive health services, mental health, lab tests, rehab and other basic medical needs. As Republicans in Washington struggled to pass their “repeal” bill, their presumed replacement would have dumped many of those ACA-required services.

• Lower prescription drug costs, though the union did not say how that would be achieved.

• Continued long-term care services provided under Medi-Cal — California’s name for Medicaid –with an emphasis on community and in-home care.

• Elimination of “narrow insurance networks” where insurers force people to choose from only a few in-house doctors.

• A ban on insurer denial of patient claims in order to reach corporate profit goals.

The new California statewide Medicare for all would be paid for by consolidating money now coming in from Medicare, Medi-Cal, savings from eliminating insurers’ overhead and “a progressive tax mix,” the union said.

Details about the financing sources and costs — including savings gained by eliminating employer and insurer health care cost-shifting to workers — will be revealed in an independent study, the union said.

“Even with the ACA, major gaps remained in coverage and costs. The proposed replacement bill and other schemes advanced by the (Republican) majority in Congress will make the healthcare crisis still experienced by so many far, far worse,”DeMoro explained.

“Other industrial countries, with coordinated, rational, public healthcare systems have taken approaches like this – and they have universally better patient care outcomes and lower costs. We can achieve that here, and, if the federal government does not act, we can, as Canada did, state by state.”

The union plans to step up its campaign for SB 562, including its own members, other healthcare activists and young people whom Sanders’ presidential campaign last year energized. “There has been a seismic shift in our political system through grassroots activism. We have an inspired, motivated base that will make its voice heard,” DeMoro said.

Source: PAI