Calif. Nurses Assn. to go statewide on single-payer drive, eyes national effort

OAKLAND, Calif.—The California Nurses Association will take its long-running drive for legislative approval of single-payer government-run health care to each of the Golden State’s 80 State Assembly districts, rather than targeting just selected key lawmakers.

 

After that, CNA, the largest affiliate of National Nurses United, plans to go national, too.

 

The announcement came in a mass conference call on July 30 from the Oakland-based union’s headquarters to activists around California. The campaign there is in preparation for renewed debate next year on SB562, the single-payer bill, in a new legislature, where it must start the enactment process all over again.

 

The union’s success, or lack of it, in passing single-payer in California is important. The state is the most-populous in the U.S., home to one of every eight residents. If California was a nation, its economy would be the 5th-largest in the world.

 

And with health care costs soaring, taking one-sixth of U.S. gross domestic product this year and an estimated one-fifth by 2025, organizers said, the time to rein them in is now, via single-payer. Approving it would also save California families thousands of dollars each yearly in premiums and co-pays, they added.

 

The Democratic-run State Senate approved SB562 in 2017, but State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, pigeonholed it. He said proponents – including the unions – hadn’t proven its enactment would profit the state, adding it would cost California millions of taxpayer dollars.

 

Retiring Gov. Jerry Brown (D) was also dubious of single-payer, for the same reason. His likely successor, Lieut. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is a strong supporter – so much so that he earned CNA/NNU’s early endorsement in this year’s gubernatorial race. Newsom won the June 6 primary and is heavily favored in November.

 

On the national level, the organizers noted single-payer health care – HR676 by Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minn., and a companion single-payer bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt. – has dozens of congressional cosponsors and has become “a litmus test” for Democrats on the campaign trail.

 

“It’s so popular that even the Trump administration is taking swings at it,” trying to defeat single-payer, one of the organizers said.

 

Single-payer is the longtime top cause of both CNA and its parent union, while 21 other AFL-CIO unions have signed on. So has the AFL-CIO Executive Council. And a Medicare For All – single-payer – caucus recently formed in the U.S. House. It now has 72 members.

 

To gain support statewide, the union will conduct intensive door-to-door conversations with voters, even in rural areas where single-payer would normally draw skepticism, organizers told conference callers. And they’ll use personal stories to relate to Californians, such as the one told by Karen McNair, a registered nurse since 1975 and CNA member at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, Calif.

 

“I got involved because of what happened to my daughter in 2008,” she explained. “She was bitten by a spider” and the bite was infectious and poisonous. “Forty-four days and ten surgeries later, they had to take the middle finger off” one of her daughter’s hands to prevent further infection and loss of the whole hand.

 

“And then we got a bill – for $650,000. That’s criminal.”

 

“I’m here to make sure my grandchildren don’t have to go through this. I’ve seen what the corporatization of health care does. Corporations care about profits. They don’t care about the patients. We” – the nurses – “do.”

Source: PAI