On January 17, health care was the focus of the day at the California State Capitol. The State Assembly held a public hearing on the future of health care in California, and NESRI joined Healthy California for to attend the hearing, hold a rally, and lobby legislators for a universal, publicly financed healthcare system to guarantee health care to all Californians.
Healthy California, a coalition of more than 350 organizations including NESRI, has introduced SB 562, the Healthy California Act. The bill has already passed the State Senate, but Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has refused to allow the bill to be taken up for debate in any committees. The public hearing did not discuss SB 562. Instead, it focused on presentations from health policy analysts who spoke about actuarial values, improving insurance market performance, and “consumer choice.” The way that the hearing was structured dismissed the experiences of the millions of Californians who are denied health care access every year by the private insurance system, obscuring injustice and human suffering through the selective use of statistics.
Outside of the Capitol, Healthy California’s rally told a different story. Desiree Rojas and Brother Kevin Carter of the Poor People’s Campaign called on the Assembly to fulfill its democratic duties and moral obligation by protecting the health of California’s residents. Nurses spoke powerfully about watching patients suffer and die because insurance, drug and hospital companies had priced health care beyond their reach. And some 300 people from all over the state, wearing t-shirts and buttons saying, “Guaranteed health care for all Californians” and “Health care is a human right,” made clear that they are not backing down. Speaker Rendon and the California Assembly are not sending any signals that they plan to take up SB 562 any time soon, but popular demands for universal health care are growing. It's up to all of us to hold legislators accountable to our human rights.
Photo credit: California Nurses Association