Nurses champion improved CalCare legislation

Submitted by ADonahue on
Large group of people standing in front of CalCare banner

Would establish single-payer health system for state

By Michelle Morris

National Nurse magazine - Jan | Feb | March 2024 Issue

On Feb. 7, California Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San José), with the crucial backing of California Nurses Association (CNA), introduced Assembly Bill 2200, the California Guaranteed Health Care for All Act. A.B. 2200 would enact a comprehensive framework of governance, benefits, program standards, and health care cost controls for a single-payer health care coverage system in California. Passing this policy framework, also known as CalCare, will allow California to begin consolidating existing health care programs, obtaining necessary federal waivers, and determining public financing.

“When we first introduced CalCare almost three years ago, we were recovering from a worldwide pandemic that truly revealed how broken our health care system had become. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then; we have continued to live in the American phenomenon where health outcomes are so connected to wealth, employment, and where you live, that inevitably it leaves those in our community that are traditionally disadvantaged at greater risk of bankruptcy, sickness, and death,” said Assemblymember Ash Kalra. “The status quo needs to change and inaction is not an option. A.B. 2200 will start the necessary process of revolutionizing health care access in this state and asserting that health care is truly a human right.”

California’s union nurses, represented by CNA, are committed to continuing to lead the organizing to build the grassroots movement necessary to win support for and pass CalCare.

“From our experiences caring for patients, nurses have known the need for and fought for decades for everyone to have guaranteed health care through a system like CalCare,” said Cathy Kennedy, RN and a president of California Nurses Association. “The Covid pandemic just underscored the desperate societal need for this program NOW. CalCare will ensure that public health – not profit – is the priority of our health care system.”

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.

A.B. 2200 improves upon prior versions, including:

  • Establishes an Advisory Committee to provide input on integrating public employee retiree health benefits into CalCare;
  • Lists explicitly gender-affirming care and an expansive offering of reproductive care as included benefits;
  • Establishes an Office of Health Equity to promote health equity across many identities;
  • Requires greater investment by providers into recruitment and retention of health care workers to prepare for and address the increased demand of health care services; and
  • Ensures that physicians and medical doctors are represented on the CalCare board.

A single-payer system will cost less overall than our current system and will significantly slow the growth of health care costs over time, saving billions each year. In addition, it could boost economic growth by eliminating future medical debt, allowing greater freedom to change jobs, and more.

Californians overwhelmingly support the transition to a single-payer health system. In a 2021 poll conducted for the Healthy California for All Commission process, 65 percent of low-income Californians supported single-payer health care, with even higher support (72 percent) among low-income communities of color. 

Michelle Morris is a communications specialist at National Nurses United.