SACRAMENTO — The Capitol building echoed with the chants of “Everybody in, nobody out!” as about 250 supporters of single-payer health care in California gathered Monday afternoon as part of the eighth annual Lobby Day rally.
A series of speakers from various health organizations as well as some state assemblymen expressed their views on the form of health care, which supports a single payer, a government entity, to cover the cost of health care, thereby eliminating health insurance companies.
For those with a medical condition and without health insurance, the cost of care can be detrimental, if not impossible, single-payer supporters said Monday.
“My son and I were hit head-on by a drunk driver, and he had to have many brain surgeries and Blue Cross limited our coverage, and I ended up losing my house,” said Sanda Rankin, a Colfax resident. “I had five huge boxes of millions in medical bills I wrote off years ago when I filed for bankruptcy.”
Rankin said due to her medical condition, the cost of health insurance would be an unaffordable $2,500 a month.
“My mortgage is $900, so there’s no way I could afford $2,500,” Rankin said. “It has to be affordable. I think every American has the right to have health insurance.”
In February 2012, Senate Bill 810, the California Universal Care Act, failed to pass by two votes. As of Monday, no California senator has since authored a bill in support of single-payer health care, and there are only 10 remaining days for such legislation to be proposed.
The Nevada County branch of Healthcare For All bused to the rally and picked up members from the Roseville and Rocklin areas, as well.
“Some don’t want to pay for somebody else’s medical, but they say 60 percent of all medical monies are paid by the taxpayers,” said Mindy Oberne, HFA member. “Don’t you want to get a better bang for your buck and not give it to CEOs and lobbyists?”
The failed senate bill would also offer jobs rather than invoke massive layoffs if health insurance companies were dissolved, Oberne said.
“There’s money set aside in the bill to retrain the people from the industry into a single-payer system, so that’s a nice thing. In reality, it’s a much more economically sound system than we have now,” Oberne said. “Every industrialized country that uses a single-payer system covers everybody and spends half of what we spend.”
Members of the California Health Professional Students learned how to lobby over the weekend and addressed legislators after the rally and noted that even with the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act, many are still left uninsured.
“What has been passed with Obama Care is health care expansion that promotes profit over patients,” said Swathi Bhuma, CaHPSA member and Northern California Lobby Day coordinator. “There will still be 23 million uninsured individuals in the U.S., and it doesn’t make health care affordable with high out-of-pocket costs.”
Single-payer would serve as a solution to this problem, Bhuma said.
“There is a solution — single-payer with no strings attached,” Bhuma said. “Currently health professionals are like puppets. Let’s cut those strings and pass single-payer health care in California.”
Some of the many organizations included in the rally were Physicians for National Health Program, the California Nurses Association, League of Women Voters, California Retired Teachers Association, Physicians For Social Responsibility and Champ Delivery Ministry.
“More than 42 percent of people are skipping doctors visits and not filling prescriptions,” said Cathy Kennedy, RN, Kaiser Roseville, who spoke on behalf of the California Nurses Association. “And new policies that require cash further limit access. A lot of Californians are without health care, and it’s not right.”
Senator Bill Monning, D-Carmel, also advocated during the rally.
“Single-payer means everybody in, nobody out,” Monning said. “When everyone is involved, we have a strong healthcare system.”
Some speakers offered horror stories about uninsured patients and family members.
“I remember my grandfather had prostate cancer, and he did not have insurance and he died,” said Chris Brown, MD and former CaHPSA president. “Fifty million are uninsured in California, and 50,000 are going to die solely because they don’t have insurance, and the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy is medical bills.”
During his time as a doctor, Brown said he remembered a particular uninsured patient who was unable to get medical assistance, which caused his cancer to spread and become fatal.
“I had a patient with stage 3 testicular cancer I asked about his history, and he said he knew something was up and went to many hospitals and couldn’t get treatment,” Brown said. “His prognosis was not great, and he got to the point of palliative care.”
Another speaker at the event told the story of her son, who had to wait weeks to receive treatment for his stomach cancer, which she said eventually led to his death.
“My son Jim had stomach cancer and had to wait weeks to get treatment, and if he would have been able to be seen a month earlier, he would have been able to have chemo and might have survived,” said Sue Eustice, member of the California School Employees Association.
Medicare covers millions of patients but fails to offer all medical services like vision, dental and foot care, said Hene Kelly from California Alliance for Retired Americans.
“I’m old, and the only thing keeping me alive is that I want to see Medicare for all,” Kelly said. “Eyes, teeth, feet and hearing have been taken out of Medicare. This is a tragedy. You know what happens when you have a tooth infection and you can’t get it taken care of or when you have a foot infection. You know the isolation you feel when you cannot hear your grandchildren laugh. We know what happens. The solution is single-payer Medicare expanded to everyone.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4230.
“Currently health professionals are like puppets. Let’s cut those strings and pass single-payer health care in California.”
— Swathi Bhuma
Northern California Lobby Day coordinator