HEALTH ACCESS CALIFORNIA
Tuesday, October 7th, 2003
GOVERNOR DAVIS SIGNS SB 2 (BURTON), TO EXPAND COVERAGE TO A MILLION WORKERS
* Vote Today in an Election That Holds The Future of Health Care
SB 2 SIGNED!
On Sunday morning outside a hospital in West Los Angeles, Governor Gray Davis signed SB 2 (Burton), which would expand coverage to a million working Californians, by requiring medium and large employers to pay a fee to provide health insurance to their workers, or simply directly provide such coverage, as the vast majority of employers already do now.
This historic bill is the probably the biggest health expansion and most significant health policy shift since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Yet it is a modest version of many earlier proposals for health care reform, including those of two California Republicans: Governor Earl Warren and President Richard Nixon. The bill simply expands the current system where now 18 million Californians get their health coverage through their employer to cover another million, using existing agencies and expertise.
The event took on a surreal life of its own, with over 20 TV cameras set up to follow Governor Davis in the midst of his campaign against the recall. State Senator Sheila Kuehl moderated much of the program, where several elected officials spoke, leading up to actor Danny Glover and Rev. Jesse Jackson. Governor Davis then took the stage himself, where he looked on while supporters spoke, including Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation, and Dr. Jack Lewin of the California Medical Association, the two organizational co-sponsors of SB 2.
Also speaking was Chris Mackin, of the garment company Team X, which already provides health coverage to their employees. As he said “As a businessman, I believe in competing on other things than the health care of my workers.” Two uninsured people gave testimony, one in English, and one in Spanish, talking about the problems of working hard everyday, but not getting health coverage, and the health and financial consequences that result. Lee Gonzalez spoke about his experience working at a large department store but not getting health coverage, and the trouble this presents in trying to regulate his recently-diagnosed diabetes.
Key speakers included Assemblyman Dario Frommer as a co-author, Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, and Senate President John Burton, who shepherded the measure through the legislative process. Senator Burton noted the history of the moment, indicating that he had gotten out of his sick bed to attend this signing of a health bill. Most speakers praised the Governor and his health record, including signing HMO reform and expanding coverage to a million children.
Governor Davis started that “today, California takes a bold and balanced step forward to reform health care.” He spoke of the benefits of the bill, and made the case for why it was good for the economy. He pointed out that nearly half of all personal bankruptcies are because of medical problems and medical bills. He acknowledged many of the elected officials present, including Representative John Conyers, a longtime leader in Congress for the cause of universal health care who flew in for the event. Surrounded by elected leaders, doctors and nurses, uninsured families, and supporters, he signed the bill to cheers and applause.
Many community and constituent groups were present for the signing, including AARP, ACORN, Americans for Democratic Action, CA Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Congress of CA Seniors, Health Access, Human Services Alliance, MALDEF, and PICO California Project, in addition to representation from many provider and labor groups. But those present were only a fraction of the many people and organizations that made this major health reform possible, and congratulations are in order for everybody who has worked on these issues.
There is much more work to do, in the next few months and years, to defend, implement, and improve SB 2, and continue our work on behalf of the insured and uninsured. When we attain quality, affordable, health care for all Californians, we will look back on the signing of this bill as an important building block for reaching that necessary goal.
REMINDER: VOTE TODAY
The decisions made today at the ballot box will have major impacts on the future of health care and health policy in California. If you haven’t already, please vote.
As a reminder, Health Access California has taken a “just say no” position on both Propositions 53 and 54. Health Access California has traditionally not made endorsements of candidates, and has not this year as well.
* NO on 53, which would fund infrastructure projects not by raising new revenues but possibly by diverting funds from health care and other priorities.
* NO on 54, which would ban the use of important information on race and ethnicity needed to appropriately learn about and address serious health care issues.
Anthony E. Wright
1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814
Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921