Instead of health care for all, Assembly has a do-nothing committee

Nurses cheer before Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to the convention of the California Nurses Association in San Francisco on Sept. 22.
Nurses cheer before Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to the convention of the California Nurses Association in San Francisco on Sept. 22. AP

With the turmoil and chaos caused by the ceaseless efforts of Congress and the Trump administration to shred the Affordable Care Act, shouldn’t our legislators show more urgency to provide health security for Californians?


On Monday, an Assembly select committee will hold its first hearing “to determine the best and quickest path forward toward universal health care,” in the words of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

However, the committee has no authority to act on legislation. It is essentially a discussion group designed to give the appearance of moving forward on reform, rather than act on an existing bill, Senate Bill 562, which would guarantee health care for all Californians without huge out-of pocket costs hurting so many.

A legislative study has already concluded that a Medicare for all/single-payer approach, as SB 562 advances, is superior to all other models of health care financing.

Further, a study released in June documented the bill’s additional cost to the state budget is closer to $100 billion, not the misleading $400 billion cited by opponents. The study also offered financing proposals under which nearly all families and businesses would pay less for health care than they do now.

It is also troubling that select committee co-chairmen Jim Wood, a Healdsburg Democrat, and Joaquin Arambula, a Fresno Democrat, are the two of the three largest Assembly recipients of campaign contributions from the health care and insurance industries.

Unlike the powerless committee, SB 562 has the enormous advantage of having already passed the state Senate in June. The Assembly can take it up immediately early next year with any amendments members want to propose.

Further delays leave Californians at the mercy of the Trump administration. Consider the latest executive orders to encourage the sale of insurance plans that evade the extensive protections established by California legislators, and to cancel subsidy payments to insurers to sabotage the ACA marketplaces.

Premiums in California for “silver” plans, by far the most common under Covered California, are going up by 25 percent on average. Anthem Blue Cross rates are jumping by 37 percent, and it is pulling out of about half of California counties.

The specific impact on individuals and families varies depending on where you live, your income, how much coverage you want, and who your current insurer is. Or you may need to shop around for a non-silver plan – all with differing levels of coverage, deductibles and co-pays and that may or may not include your doctor, hospital, or other providers in its network.

Or Congress may or may not pass supplemental legislation to reverse Trump’s orders, which he may or may not support, with its own set of uncertain impacts. Everyone clear?

There’s a fix that would end Californians’ anxiety over their health coverage and cost, and establish protection for all. The people are ready. Earlier this month, nearly 1,000 activists attended 100 events in all 80 Assembly districts to talk to their neighbors about SB 562, and 10,000 people signed petitions urging its approval.

Concord resident Emily Chandler was among them. She told us she pays $800 a month for insurance but sometimes avoids going to the hospital because she can’t afford the co-pays and deductibles. She is one of 15 million Californians who, even under the ACA, are without coverage or who don’t get the care they need due to rising costs.

Californians don’t need a committee that can do little more than talk. They need real relief, SB 562.

Deborah Burger, a registered nurse in Sonoma County, is co-president of the California Nurses Association. She can be contacted at