New grassroots California group pushes for statewide universal coverage
By Victoria Colliver
09/01/2017 09:00 AM EDT
A grassroots California organization has been quietly pushing its own vision of statewide universal health care. The group – with more than 86,000 Facebook followers – is about to get a lot louder.
Enact Universal Healthcare for California plans to start collecting signatures for a ballot measure it filed two weeks ago. It calls for removing legal roadblocks to creating a state fund dedicated to providing universal coverage. At the same time, the group’s members — all volunteers who share in the belief that health care is a right — are working on language for a bill to provide care for all Californians.
“We have no political motivation. We are not a union. We are not getting paid for doing this,” said Terri Carlson, a retired public relations specialist from the San Diego area who coordinates social media and press for Enact Universal Healthcare. “We are simply a grass roots group of Californians that have different reasons why they think it’s important we have a single-payer system in California.”
The drumbeat to push the single-payer agenda forward has continued on both the state and national front, despite recent setbacks in California.
Enact Universal Healthcare for California, which was formed by Sunnyvale resident Dale Fountain last November, supported the state’s single-payer bill while it was going through the legislative process this year. But the group is clearly distancing itself from the bill’s key sponsor, the California Nurses Association.
The volunteer group took issue with the union’s tactics following Rendon’s decision to hold the bill, which includes a recall to have him removed from office. In particular, the group did not like the nurses union’s use of an image, which depicted California’s iconic bear stabbed in the back by a knife with “Rendon” on the handle. Absent the knife, the image looked similar to Enact Universal Healthcare for California’s logo.
“We didn’t want people to think we supported that,” Carlson said, adding that the group wants to work with Rendon and the Assembly committee. “We didn’t think cutting the hand that could feed us was the right way to go.”
Officials from the California Nurses Association declined requests to talk about the group. The union plans to campaign door-to-door this weekend to encourage constituents to pressure their lawmakers to revive SB 562.
Enact Universal Healthcare is still working out the details of its bill and the ballot with a core group of volunteers who have expertise in different fields, including lawyers, accountants, health care executives and providers.
The ballot measure called the “California Healthcare Roadblock Removal Act,” would allow the state to create a special health fund — the key being that it would not be subject to current law, which requires any excess state revenue to go to education. Once the group gets the green light from the state, it can start collecting the 600,000 signatures needed to get the measure on the November 2018 ballot.
The fund is necessary for the group’s parallel effort, which is to write a new universal health care bill and find a lawmaker to carry it.
The bill will be different from SB 562, authored by Sens. Ricardo Lara and Tony Atkins, said Marcia Desrosiers, a volunteer from Orange County who is helping to coordinate writing of the bill. Desrosiers, a former biochemist with more than 20 years experience in health information systems, said unlike SB 562, Enact Universal Healthcare’s bill will require consumers to contribute to the cost of their coverage on a sliding-scale and keep existing systems like Kaiser Permanente and other types of insurance intact.
Like the California Senate single-payer bill introduced this year, Enact Universal Healthcare’s bill would also require the state to seek a waiver from the federal government to divert funds used to pay for Medicaid, Medicare, and other public expenditures, into a special fund. Additional financing will be needed to provide coverage for California’s 39 million residents.
Many of the details still need to be worked out, Desrosiers said. “I see what were doing as an evolution,” she said. “The nurses did a wonderful job of drawing attention to this moral imperative, and we appreciate that. But you can’t achieve that moral imperative unless you have a solid plan for the money.”
Excerpts reprinted with permission.