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State Senate advances NUHW-sponsored healthcare reform bill

NUHW took a big step toward its goal of guaranteeing health care for all Californians this month when the State Senate’s Health Committee advanced Senate Bill 770.

Despite opposition from the insurance industry and the California Chamber of Commerce, the committee on April 19 voted 7-2 in favor of the bill that lays out a path for California to build a healthcare system in which no one is denied care based on age, employment, disability, income, immigration status, or any other characteristic.

“The fragmentation in our current healthcare system leads to… severe and sometimes lethal gaps in medically necessary health coverage that disproportionately impact historically and systematically marginalized communities,” State Sen. Scott Wiener, the bill’s author, told his colleagues on the Health Committee.

Last year, a commission formed by Gov. Newsom found that transitioning to a unified public financing model (such as single-payer or Medicare-for-All) would avert 4,000 deaths per year and save California $158 billion in public healthcare spending by 2031 over the next decade, while providing all California residents with a standard package of healthcare services that could include Long Term Care Support and Services.

SB 770 establishes tangible steps on a concrete timeline toward creating this unified healthcare financing system by requiring California’s secretary of health and human services to:

  • Pursue discussions with federal authorities for a necessary waiver allowing federal healthcare funds to flow to the new system.
  • Establish a diverse working group of healthcare stakeholders to help guide the waiver process.
  • Provide quarterly reports to the chairs of the Assembly and Senate Health Committees on the status and outcomes of waiver discussions with the federal government and the progress of the work group.
  • Submit a complete set of recommendations regarding the elements to be included in a formal waiver application, as specified, by no later than June 1, 2024.

“The longer any of us look at healthcare the more we know something needs to be done,” Health Committee Chairperson Sen. Susan Eggman said during the hearing.

The coalition partners working to pass SB 770 include the California Alliance for Retired Americans, the California Federation of Teachers, California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, Health Access of California, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Physicians for a National Health Program — California Chapter, Inland Equity Partnership, Courage California, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and UNITE HERE.

Several NUHW members called into the hearing to state their support for SB 770 as did members of other organizations that are part of Healthy California Now, a coalition of organizations, which is bill’s primary sponsor.

“NUHW is part of the most diverse coalition in state history seeking to reform our profit-driven healthcare system,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said. “While there are many more hurdles left to climb, this committee vote demonstrates that if unions, healthcare advocates and social justice organizations join together, we can build a fair and equitable system that provides healthcare to all California residents.”

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