California nurses renew fight for guaranteed health care
Following historic gains for CalCare last session, California Nurses Association aims to build political power with new state legislature
February 16, 2023
Vowing never to back down against the corporate health care industry, the California Nurses Association (CNA) announced today they are renewing their fight to pass CalCare. The legislation, which made historic gains in the Assembly last session, would guarantee free, comprehensive, high-quality health care to all California residents as a human right through a single-payer system.
The union of 100,000 California registered nurses – in partnership with Assemblymember Ash Kalra, author of AB 1400 last session and now AB 1690 – plans to spend the next year growing support for CalCare outside and inside the state’s capitol, where the most diverse class of first-year legislators just assumed office, setting the stage for a truly transformative progressive agenda.
“California nurses are renewing our fight to put health care back in the hands of people, not the insurance companies hunting for their next buck,” said California Nurses Association President Sandy Reding. “With an even larger Democratic supermajority this session, there are no excuses for Sacramento to deny Californians guaranteed health care through CalCare. Nurses look forward to working with Assemblymember Kalra to build support for a single-payer health care system that puts patients above profits.”
“We know that the transition to a single-payer health care system will not happen overnight, but with continued dedication in partnership with passionate allies, we will keep up the momentum and bring us closer to a truly accessible and equitable healthcare system for all Californians,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “I look forward to a productive year of dialogue with my colleagues in the legislature and the mighty California Nurses Association.”
AB 1690 will be introduced as a spot bill to allow time for the important and necessary conversations to take place on single-payer policy. While there are principles of CalCare that CNA would never compromise on, this process will allow legislators to give feedback on the legislation while nurses and community allies organize and build power and support for CalCare. Ultimately, the goal is to move single-payer legislation in 2024 through the legislature.
“Fierce, dogged organizing by nurses and our community allies is the reason why CalCare advanced through the Assembly Health and Appropriations committees last session and why CalCare is on the table again,” said Puneet Maharaj, California Nurses Association’s government relations director. “The billion-dollar insurance industry will come forward with their lies, complaints, and army of lobbyists but nurses see every day why Californians desperately need CalCare. We have the facts and the people behind us. In partnership with Assemblymember Kalra, who has shown his dedication to CalCare, we’re ready to take on corporations who stand against health justice.”
Polling published in October 2021 featured in a report to the Healthy California for All Commission found that 65% of Californians with low incomes support the establishment of a single, government-run health care system for all Californians.
Despite the gains made under the Affordable Care Act, nearly 3.2 million Californians have no health insurance, while millions more have insurance that they can’t afford to use because their copays and deductibles are too high. Nearly two-thirds of Californians report being worried about unexpected medical bills and nearly two-thirds report being worried about out-of-pocket health care costs. Meanwhile, money-driven insurance companies are reporting record-breaking profits. While almost one-third of each health care dollar is spent on administrative costs, including waste on exorbitant CEO salaries, marketing, billing, advertising, and an army of staff to deny and delay claims, the insurance industry spends hundreds of millions lobbying against single-payer proposals.
CNA nurses have been leading the fight to guarantee health care as a right for all Californians since 1994, when nurses led the charge for Prop. 186, a ballot measure that would have implemented a single-payer system in California. Since then, nurses have continued to advocate for guaranteed health care for all, knowing all too well the failings that come with a health care system that places profits ahead of patients.