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NUHW-backed universal healthcare bill heads to governor’s desk

In a major step toward groundbreaking reform of California’s healthcare financing and delivery system, the State Assembly this month passed SB 770 by a vote of 47-18.

The universal healthcare bill, which now heads to the governor’s desk, would potentially put California on the path toward a Medicare for All-style healthcare system.

SB 770 advances the work of Gov. Newsom’s Healthy California For All Commission, which found that transitioning to a healthcare system envisioned by the bill would avert 4,000 deaths per year, and save Californians $158 billion per year in healthcare spending by 2031.

Newsom’s commission concluded that a unified financing system, which could include a single-payer, Medicare for All-style system, would:

  • Guarantee all California residents a comprehensive package of healthcare benefits including behavioral health care, and potentially long-term care and support services.

  • Eliminate disparities between Medicare, Medi-Cal, employer-sponsored insurance, and individual market coverage.

To put the commission’s recommendations into action, SB 770 directs California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services to pursue discussions with federal authorities regarding the potential terms of waivers necessary for California to secure its full share of federal healthcare funds for the new system. The agency would be required to:

  • Present a detailed draft report for legislative review and public comment by June 1, 2025, and

  • Publish a final plan by November 1, 2025 so that it could move forward with formal federal waiver applications in early 2026.

NUHW helped spearhead the legislation through its leadership role in Healthy California Now (HCN), the state’s largest coalition of single payer healthcare advocates.

Following the Assembly vote on Sept. 14, HCN president Michael Lighty, who is NUHW’s representative on the coalition’s executive board, called the bill’s passage, “a momentous achievement in the decades-long fight for an equitable, high-quality healthcare system that will guarantee better care at lower costs for all Californians.”

State Senator Scott Wiener, of San Francisco, who co-authored the bill and shepherded it through the legislature, tweeted, “Our healthcare system is fragmented and expensive and many fall through the cracks. SB 770 is a concrete step forward.”

SB 770 is backed by a broad coalition of healthcare advocates, labor unions and community-based organizations representing seniors, low-income Californians, and immigrant communities. In addition to NUHW, the coalition members includes Health Access California, Western Center on Law and Poverty, California Academy of Family Physicians, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, UNITE HERE, California Federation of Teachers, SEIU California, California Conference of Machinists, and the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council.

Although California has taken steps to expand coverage under the Affordable Care Act, approximately 9 percent of state residents were projected to be uninsured in 2022, a figure that includes many undocumented Californians. A 2019 report by the California Health Care Foundation found that people of color face barriers to accessing health care, often receive suboptimal treatment, and are most likely to experience poor outcomes in the current healthcare system.

“Healthcare is unavailable or unaffordable for far too many Californians,” NUHW Secretary-Treasurer Sophia Mendoza said. “The passage of SB 770 is an important milestone on the road to universal health care, and we’re excited to continue partnering with a growing coalition of unions and healthcare advocates committed to doing the hard work of building a healthcare system that will guarantee healthcare for all Californians.”

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