Assemblymember Ash Kalra, California Nurses Association Announce CalCare Single-Payer Legislation to Guarantee Health Care for All Californians

Friday, February 19, 2021

AB 1400 would guarantee comprehensive, high-quality health care for all Californians as a human right, leading the nation in the larger fight for health care justice

SACRAMENTO – California Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and joint authors, Assemblymembers Alex Lee (D-San Jose) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), today introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1400, which would guarantee comprehensive, high-quality health care to all Californians as a human right. Renewing its commitment to the larger fight for health care justice, the California Nurses Association (CNA) is the sponsor of AB 1400, the California Guaranteed Health Care for All Act (CalCare). The CalCare program establishes an improved Medicare for All-type health care system.

“A single-payer health system represents the belief that health care is truly a human right. Our current system results in unjust outcomes and these inequities are underscored especially now, exacerbating economic downturns for working families who have lost their income and meaningful access to health care,” said Assemblymember Ash Kalra. “We will have a long fight ahead in fixing our broken system, but this bill will set us on a real path towards a single-payer system and affirms the policy that would save lives, decrease suffering, and improve public health in California.”

Despite the gains made under the Affordable Care Act, nearly 3 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. Meanwhile, for-profit insurance companies and health care systems are reporting record-breaking profits, even while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage California and medical-related bankruptcies are at an all-time high.

“Health care should be a human right, not a privilege. Millions of uninsured Californians are anxious and afraid of what will happen to them if they get sick during this pandemic. Will they be able to afford to survive COVID-19?” said joint author Assemblymember Miguel Santiago. “California can lead the nation toward a health care model that is affordable and accessible to all. A single-payer health care system will provide health care for all Californians regardless of age, income, or immigration status with no network restrictions, deductibles, or copayments.”

“The wealthiest nation in human history has failed to guarantee health care as a human right. Two thirds of the bankruptcies in this country are tied to medical debt,” said joint author Assemblymember Alex Lee. “We’ve seen from the pandemic that employment-based health care doesn’t work – through CalCare we can guarantee health care for all Californians.”

Upon being authorized and financed, CalCare will ensure that all Californians, regardless of employment, income, immigration status, race, gender, or any other considerations, can get the health care they need, free at the point of service. CalCare also includes long-term services and supports for people with disabilities and the elderly, a health care cost control system, and ways to address health care disparities.

“From our experiences caring for patients, we nurses have known the need for and fought for decades for everyone to have guaranteed health care through a system like CalCare,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN and executive director of California Nurses Association and the national nursing organization with which it is affiliated, National Nurses United. “The COVID pandemic has just underscored the desperate societal need for this program NOW. CalCare will ensure that public health is the priority of our health care system, not making a buck for insurance corporations.”

The CalCare program would be a truly transformative change to California’s health care system. In addition to guaranteeing health care to all Californians, it would save families and businesses thousands in annual health care costs by cutting out the bloat, waste, and inefficiencies of our fragmented, for-profit insurance system.

Californians overwhelmingly support the transition to a single-payer health care system: 57 percent of all Californians supported replacing private insurance with guaranteed coverage provided by the government—even before the Covid-19 pandemic caused millions of Californians to lose their jobs and employer-provided health insurance.

Past legislative attempts have addressed the skyrocketing cost of health insurance, however, the cost of health care remains unaffordable for many working Californians and is a significant burden for the public, as well as private employers and payers. Despite this high spending, Americans have worse health outcomes, including shorter life expectancy and greater prevalence of chronic conditions, which has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, California’s growing senior population only further necessitates the need for more comprehensive health care and long-term care supports.

Assemblymember Kalra has been at the forefront on first-of-its-kind legislation, AB 3087 in 2018, to combat skyrocketing costs in our health care system. He was the author of AB 731 in 2019 which sought to expand health insurance rate review to the large group market and enhance elements of review to better understand the cost drivers in health care. He has been a leader on a number of issues to assist the aging population during his first term as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, championing issues like expanding community-based assisted living, holding nursing homes accountable to resident harm, improving long-term care insurance, extending the Alzheimer’s tax check-off, and requesting additional funding for critical elder care programs.

The principal coauthors of AB 1400 are Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and Senators Lena A. Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). The bill is also coauthored by Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), Luz Rivas (D-Arleta), and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), and Senators Josh Becker (D-Peninsula), Dave Cortese (D-Silicon Valley), John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont).

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Assemblymember Ash Kalra represents the 27th District, which encompasses approximately half of San Jose and includes all of downtown. He is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment and also serves as a member on the Housing and Community Development, Judiciary, Transportation, and Water, Parks, and Wildlife committees. For more information, visit https://a27.asmdc.org/.

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago represents the 53rd District composed of the cities of Los Angeles, Huntington Park, and Vernon. Since his election to the Assembly in 2014, he has championed legislation to address homelessness, food insecurity, educational inequity and income inequality. He is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance and Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Los Angeles County Homelessness. He also sits on the Assembly Committees on Public Safety, Health, Higher Education and Utilities and Energy.

Assemblymember Alex Lee sits on the Budget Committee as well as the Committees on Education, Transportation, Privacy & Consumer Protection, and Rules. He represents the 25th Assembly District which includes the cities of Fremont, Newark, Milpitas, San Jose, and Santa Clara