Nearly half a dozen groups in Humboldt County joined protesters outside of Assembly Member Jim Wood’s Office in Eureka yesterday to demonstrate the severity of putting SB 562 through the California State Assembly. SB 562, also known as the Healthy California Act, would create universal health coverage for every Californian under a single payer system.
That means the government would operate a tax-funded health insurance plan for residents with no network restrictions, deductibles, co-pays or other limitations. According to the Healthy California program, this would replace an array of private insurers that pay for healthcare costs.
Humboldt Green Party member David Cobb said it was called a Die In, which exemplified that people would in fact die if they’re not given proper health care. Along the sidewalk he spoke with nearly two dozen protesters about their demonstration which featured a fake skeleton on a cardboard casket with a shirt that read ‘I’m a pre-existing condition’. Protestors laid flowers on the demonstration and dressed in black to symbolize deaths caused by lack of health care.
“If Representative Wood was genuinely interested in proving senate bill 562 he would allow it to go through the legislative process,” Cobb said. “Instead what he has done is stopped the bill from going forward in the legislative process and is now arguing that he wants to have informal hearings that would include insurance corporations and Big Pharma at the table, basically guaranteeing that we will not be able to have healthcare as a human right.”
Kathryn Donahue has been a registered nurse for 40 years and has worked in the intensive care unit for St. Joseph Hospital for 28 years. She said she supports healthcare for all and has been advocating for single payer healthcare for years.
“What SB 562 is designed to do is to give every resident of California a little card that says healthy California on it and just like I take my Medicare care. When I go to the doctor I hand them my Medicare card, you would go to the doctor and hand your healthy California card to your provider,” she said. “And it covers all kinds of healthcare, not just what insurance industries cover. It covers mental health. It covers dental. It covers vision. It covers extended care. It covers everything that you could think of to help people have preventative care.”
The problem, according to Donahue is that SB 562 has not been given a chance to go through the State Assembly. Instead it’s been put on a shelf. She said today is the last chance for it to be pulled off the shelf and given a fair hearing by the state assembly.
“The longer we wait to let people access healthcare, the more people will die. When I worked in the intensive care unit, people would come in there on death’s door and many of them died because they didn’t have access to preventative care so they waited. And they waited and they couldn’t afford to come in with their co- pays and deductibles. And then when they’re almost dead they come in and it’s too late.”
Humboldt County residents like Jan Bramlett said when she first moved here she had to take a job that offered healthcare versus a job she actually wanted which changed the whole course of her career nearly ten years ago. She said lack of health care has caused a huge financial burden in her life. She now can’t buy a car because of her credit being affected by unpaid bills. She also said she wants to get a few moles checked out in case they’re cancerous but also can’t afford to.
“I have a huge share of my own medical costs to bear and I just don’t pay it,” Bramlett said. “Being 62 years old, I know I’m only a few years away from Medicare, but I’m not going to retire until I’m 70 because of money needs. I need to be keeping working and I need to get medical care. And I can’t. I can echo what the other person said, I can’t afford to go to the doctors because I already have so many bills.”
Assembly member Jim Wood acknowledged the die in at his local offices and stated that he recognized the passion of the advocated and will always advocate for their right to voice their opinions. In a statement he said that although SB 562 was held in the Assembly this year, solutions to move toward universal health care are in the works and that he hopes the advocates are not stuck on one solution to achieve health care for all.
Today is the last day for the bill to get into committee where evidence, hearings and testimony could be heard and amendments offered for SB 562.