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News of the Month – February 2024

Note: Some of these stories may require a subscription.

CalMatters reports that San Diego Republican Assemblymember Marie Waldron and San Francisco Democratic Senator Scott Wiener are pushing bills to allow adults 21 and older to use psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA DMT and mescaline to treat mental illness. NUHW is supporting Wiener’s bill and an NUHW-represented therapist has been in contact with Wiener’s office to help provide guidance.

Harris & Harris, a debt collection agency hired by Providence, has agreed to pay $1 million to resolve allegations the company unlawfully collected medical payments from about 166,000 Washington patients without providing them with disclosures about their rights when faced with medical debt, reports Becker’s Hospital Review. Providence recently agreed to provide $157.8 million in refunds and debt relief to low-income patients as part of an agreement with the state Office of the Attorney General, which filed his lawsuit against Providence in February 2022 and later expanded the suit to add Harris & Harris and the health system’s other debt collection agency, Optimum Outcomes.

The California Teachers Association noted NUHW’s key role in helping organize last months’ press conference with Glendale teachers, students, and parents about the threat anti-LGBTQ+ activists gaining a foothold on the local school board.

Citing the budget shortfall, California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas cast doubt on AB 2200, called Guaranteed Health Care for All, the latest proposal to create a state-run single-payer healthcare system. According to Los Angeles Times, The bill by Assemblyman Ash Kalra is based on his prior single-payer legislation, which failed to get enough votes to move forward in January 2022.Last year, Governor Newsom signed a bill by State Senator Scott Wiener that would set the stage for universal healthcare by helping California obtain a waiver from the federal government to use Medicaid and Medicare funds for a potential single-payer system. The bill was meant as an incremental step to address some of the logistical hurdles that had stymied earlier proposals for sweeping reform.

Politico reports that Democratic State Senator Anthony J. Portantino has reintroduced his bill that would provide unemployment insurance benefits for striking workers. SB 1116 is sponsored by the California Labor Federation and jointly authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo. Governor Newsom vetoed a previous version of the bill claiming that the state didn’t have enough money to fund it.

According to ABC7, CalOptima, a health insurance agency that runs the Medi-Cal program in Orange County, will be terminating contracts of four Prime Healthcare community hospitals in the county, including West Anaheim Medical Center (where NUHW represents a large number of workers), Garden Grove Hospital Medical Center, La Palma Intercommunity Hospital and Huntington Beach Hospital. More than 300 CalOptima patients have signed an online petition, urging the company to reconsider its decision and attorney Lloyd Bookman’s firm has filed a lawsuit against CalOptima on behalf of eight OC CalOptima members to try to stop the termination.

The California law known as Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), that lets workers who believe they have been victims of wage theft or other workplace abuses sue their employers not only for themselves but for other workers, may be in jeopardy as an initiative backed by business groups seeking to replace it will appear in the November ballot, reports. Each year, the law allows mostly low-wage workers to recover some $40 million from approximately 30,000 wage claims filed with the state labor commissioner.

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