PANA fights for healthcare for all as a human right. We support campaigns to win Medicare-for-All and center the demand for equality in healthcare as a strategic approach to building the grassroots power necessary to win major reform and overturn the monopoly of private insurance companies and pharmaceutical corporations that deny healthcare for over 30 million in the U.S.
Watch this video addressing Black inequality in U.S. healthcare
We will never win major healthcare reform without addressing healthcare inequality. There will be no victory without the engagement and empowerment of communities that suffer from actual existing healthcare disparities in the U.S.
A new “CalCare” spot bill, AB 1690, will be introduced by CA Assemblymember Ash Kalra
PANA will once again join ground-game forces to pressure legislators to advance this “single-payer” bill to the Governor’s desk in 2024.
Fierce, dogged organizing by nurses and our community allies is the reason why CalCare advanced through the Assembly Health and Appropriations committees last session and why CalCare is on the table again,” said Puneet Maharaj, California Nurses Association’s government relations director. “The billion-dollar insurance industry will come forward with their lies, complaints, and army of lobbyists but nurses see every day why Californians desperately need CalCare. We have the facts and the people behind us. In partnership with Assemblymember Kalra, who has shown his dedication to CalCare, we’re ready to take on corporations who stand against health justice
According to polling published in October 2021, 65% of Californians with low-incomes support the establishment of a “single-payer” health care system that provides comprehensive care for all.
PANA will advocate that such a major reform measure should insure everyone in the state, regardless of employment or immigration status and explicitly addresses healthcare inequality that is integral to the current for-profit only system.
Build grassroots power to win AB 1690
The California Nurses Association (CNA), affiliated with National Nurses United, has played a key role in keeping the fight for CalCare alive, along with many grass-roots, “ground game” organizations such as PANA and Save Our Seniors Network and the many voters who delivered a CA Presidential Primary victory to Senator Bernie Sanders in 2020. The union of 100,000 registered nurses, in partnership with Kalra, plans to continue growing support for this effort, both inside and outside of the state’s capitol.
“California nurses are renewing our fight to put health care back in the hands of people, not the insurance companies hunting for their next buck,” said California Nurses Association President Sandy Reding. “With an even larger Democratic supermajority this session, there are no excuses for Sacramento to deny Californians guaranteed health care through CalCare. Nurses look forward to working with Assemblymember Kalra to build support for a single-payer health care system that puts patients above profits.”
As we have in previous rounds of this ongoing fight, PANA members will continue to educate members of various Asian American and Pacific Islander communities about the need to support this important struggle which will impact all families. To win this fight to defeat the for-profit interests of the powerful healthcare insurers and big pharmaceutical industry, we must engage broader numbers of people to address existing inequalities in the healthcare system. AB 1690, must address the specific cultural and linguistic needs of these communities, the majority of whom are immigrant and working-class.
Carmen Comsti is the lead regulatory policy specialist for the California Nurses Association / National Nurses United (CNA/NNU). PANA has had the honor and pleasure of having her join previous forums we have held to address the need for comprehensive healthcare reform. She has also served for the last two years on Governor Newsom’s Healthy California for All Commission on behalf of the nurses in CNA/NNU and our single-payer movement in California, appointed to that body in December 2019.
Gavin Newsom was elected to CA governor, in large part, because he promised to deliver single-payer healthcare reform to all Californians. The purpose of the Commission was to develop a plan for such a major reform “through a unified financing system, including, but not limited to a single payer financing system,” and to deliver a report with its findings by 2021.
The research and discussions held by the Commission occurred at the same time the grass-roots movement for single-payer reform continued at the ground level, a movement that PANA has been a part of since its inception. Our last attempt, AB 1400, fell short of votes needed in the CA Assembly, once again due to the monied interest controlling a majority of elected officials in Sacramento.
The ‘invisible’ targets of hatred and hardship: Lower-income Asian Americans the focus of new COVID-19 study
Boston Globe Kay Lazar April 20, 2022
“Those in Chinatown or the working communities in Malden and Quincy are often invisible,” said Carolyn Wong, a political scientist at the Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass.
Wong said she embarked on research to help widen the public’s perception of Asian Americans, who are often stalked by a “model minority myth.”
“The impression that policy makers and a lot of the public have is just looking at the better off [Asian Americans],” Wong said.
“The movies, TV, a lot of media images, or ideas people have about how well off Asians are, come from the successful scientists and medical folks, and those are the ones who are more prominent in the public’s mind,” she said.
Wong and her UMass coauthor, Ziting Kuang, surveyed 192 mostly low- and middle-income Asian Americans in 2020 and early 2021 in Greater Boston and found that roughly 75 percent reported working jobs that placed them at higher risk for COVID, and about 40 percent reported feeling very or extremely worried about being able to pay their rent or mortgage.
A third said they were very or extremely afraid they would run out of food because of a lack of money.
Income inequality, the report found, is the greatest among Asian Americans, displacing Black people as the most economically divided racial or ethnic group in the country.
The large gap in experiences the UMass researchers found between wealthy and low-income Asian Americans mirrors the findings of a 2018 Pew Research Center report that found income inequality rising most rapidly among that group. It found that income distribution among Asian Americans transformed from being one of the most equal to being the most unequal among the United States’ major racial and ethnic groups.
Two dozen analyses of national and statewide single payer proposals made over the past 30 years have determined that a single-payer healthcare system would save money over time, likely even during the first year of operation
By Laura Kurtzman, UCSF Thursday, January 16, 2020
The study, published Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in PLOS Medicine, comes as California Gov. Gavin Newsom has created a state commission to find ways to achieve universal coverage, possibly through a single-payer system, and as the Democratic presidential candidates are debating “Medicare for All” proposals on the national stage.
The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country, yet is one of only a few developed nations that does not provide universal coverage. Under proposed single payer bills, such as “Medicare for All,” a unified public financing system would replace private insurance, similar to the healthcare system in Canada and many other wealthy nations.
The models were created by analysts from different political perspectives, and they provided a range of cost estimates in the first year of operation, from 7 percent higher to 15 percent lower.
In his column, David Lazarus takes a look at a real-world case of medical expenses for an uninsured entrepreneur and “bonkers” over-the-top expenses caused by the inherent dysfunction of the current for-profit medical care system . AB 1400 would provide healthcare insurance for all in CA and eliminate these nightmare scenarios.
LA Times | January 18, 2022
By David Lazarus
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warned debt collectors and credit agencies last week that they need to step more carefully when it comes to trashing people’s credit scores because of stratospheric medical bills.
The agency’s notice underlines that the federal No Surprises Act took effect this month, protecting people from many unexpected healthcare charges.
“Too many Americans have been shocked by surprise medical bills and forced to pay up through credit report coercion,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra.
What he means by “credit report coercion” is healthcare providers threatening to let debt collectors hold patients’ credit scores hostage unless they pay even the most wildly inflated medical bill.
“Our action today should serve as a reminder not to collect on or furnish credit reporting information about invalid medical debt,” Chopra said.
This is an important safeguard. A 2019 study found that medical bills were a primary factor in about two-thirds of U.S. personal bankruptcy filings. More than half a million U.S. families go bankrupt annually because they can’t afford healthcare.
But the new law won’t help people already feeling the squeeze from unpaid medical bills.
People such as Mei Li.
The Connecticut resident contacted me the other day seeking help with nearly $4,000 in charges for a pair of stitches.
Li, an animator and illustrator for children’s books, is uninsured. She told me she had to choose between health coverage and trying to build her own company.
While that’s not a choice anyone should have to make, 35-year-old Li gambled that because she’s relatively young and healthy, she could invest in her business rather than seek coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
She gambled wrong.
In August, Li slipped and fell while out with her boyfriend. The cut on her chin wasn’t too serious, but it was clear she’d need stitches to close it.
“Unfortunately, all the urgent care clinics were closed,” Li told me. “So I had to go to the emergency room at Norwalk Hospital.”
She said she explained in advance that she was uninsured and asked for an estimate of how much her treatment might cost. No one at the hospital would offer a figure, she said.
After waiting several hours to see a doctor, Li said, she was finally ushered into an exam room and given an anesthetic, two stiches and a bandage. That’s it. The entire procedure took less than half an hour.
Following the victorious 11-3 vote in the CA Assembly Committee on Health on January 11, AB 1400 now advances to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, to be heard in a non-public session on Thursday, January 20, 2022.
In preparation for the Appropriations hearing, PANA member Steven Gibson initiated a meeting with the staff of Appropriations Chair, Chris Holden (AD 41). Holden was “not able to attend the meeting” but constituents from AD 41 and a diverse group of community representatives shared various reasons for why AB 1400 should be supported by the committee and advanced to a floor vote by January 31.
The constituents and community advocates spoke passionately about various reasons for Holden to support AB 1400:
Teachers and mothers described how kids in Pasadena will directly benefit as a result of this bill.
It was pointed out how Asian immigrants and especially elderly Asians and Pacific Islanders will benefit since they have high percentages of seniors and bilingual needs.
Healthcare organizers described how the nurses and healthcare workers in major local hospitals around Pasadena are strong supporters of AB 1400 since their union is one of the initiators of the bill. About 2,500 nurses at Huntington Memorial, Arcadia Methodist, and San Gabriel Valley Med. Center are represented or affiliated with the CA Nurses Association.
Steven Gibson, Democrats of Foothill Pasadena, Progressive Asian Network for Action – Coordinating Committee, 41st AD delegate.
David Monkawa, Save Our Seniors Network, Progressive Asian Network for Action, Past Organizing Dir. with the CA Nurses Assoc. directed union organizing drives at Pasadena’s
Huntington Memorial and built citywide healthcare coalition.
Tina Fredericks, Former teacher and activist with Pasadena Unified School District, and Democratic Party delegate with 41st AD.
Max Cottrell, CA Nurses Assoc. Organizer, the CA Nurses Assoc. represents about 2,500 nurses and healthcare workers who work in AD 41.
Julie McKune, retired teacher Pasadena Unified Scholl District, League of Women Voters – Assembly Delegate with 41st AD
Mindy Pfeiffer, retired teacher, Assembly Delegate for 41st AD.
Kevin Mulligan, Chief of Staff, Assemblyperson Chris Holden, 41st Assembly District
Private insurance corporations spread lies about the “high costs” of single-payer to the tax payer to block meaningful healthcare reform. They have been successful only because of their influence over corporate media outlets and their ability to spread lies about how it would be financed. The end result is the maintenance of a system where $220-280 billion in public funds are diverted into a massive multi-payer bureaucracy geared towards maximizing corporate profits rather than patient care.
Racially motivated violence looks like the mass shootings that killed Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Chung Park, Hyun Grant and Suncha Kim in Atlanta on March 16, 2021. Racially motivated violence also looks like suicide, which is defined as a deliberate act of self-directed violence in order to cause injury to oneself that results in death.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. When broken down by race, suicide is the first leading cause of death among Asian American young adults age 15-24. This is true of no other racial group in this age range in America.
AB 1400 calls for the implementation of policies to ensure that all residents of this state have access to medically appropriate, coordinated mental health services.
This bill is also historic, in that it directly addresses the need for multilingual and culturally-appropriate health services. These are of particular concern for Asian American communities, which are nearly 60% immigrant in demographic composition.
The Asian American community is experiencing an upsurge in hate crimes due to scapegoating of Chinese people as being the cause of the pandemic. Racist violence is not a new thing for Asian Americans as discrimination has been a historical condition – not just on the streets, but through systemic racism, including disparities in healthcare.
In 2018, 25 percent of Korean Americans and 20 percent of Vietnamese Americans had no health coverage. The Affordable Care Act helped alleviate those numbers, but no updates have been conducted after millions lost their jobs and insurance during the pandemic. Asian American data research is lacking and facts, such as 69% of the Thai American community being uninsured, are not well known.
In 2019, the leading cause of death among Asian Americans aged 15-24 was suicide. To this day, suicide is still among the top causes of death for young Asian Americans. In the U.S., this is true for no other racial group in the same age range. The mental healthcare system is inadequate and inaccessible to many.
Last year, over 80 Japanese American seniors in a Los Angeles intermediate care facility were evicted from their home because the corporate owner wanted to convert it to market-rate apartments. Even against the pleas of 10 licensed physicians, the CA government did not keep them safe during the pandemic. No other intermediate care facilities in the U.S. have the same level of Japanese-speaking staff and culturally-appropriate services.
Assembly Bill 1400 would provide groups facing healthcare disparities the help they need. The bill would create a single payer healthcare system that would cover all Californians regardless of citizenship, age, income, or employment status.
Under AB 1400, young people can access mental health services and elders can receive bilingual and bi-cultural healthcare. Non-English speaking people can have difficulty explaining their problems to medical staff, especially if they’re under duress. Doctors and nurses who only know a Western viewpoint, may not know how to communicate with patients of different cultures.
Hate crime victims and their families will no longer need to launch GoFundMe pages to pay for medical treatment due to lack of health coverage.
California has 85 percent of Democratic voters who support a single payer system and 61 percent of voters of various political views support it. The public support for AB1400 is there because the need exists. Our current governor was elected partially because he pledged to support single-payer reform. To have 3.2 million Californians without healthcare insurance in our wealthy state is a travesty.
AB1400 will be the safety net for our most vulnerable communities who are suffering in silence due to healthcare racism and inequality. This is why members of the Progressive Asian Network for Action (PANA) back this bill and urge you to vote “Aye” for AB 1400, which will save many lives.
Taiwan developed their modern healthcare system in 1995 by studying 10-15 countries. Taiwan wanted a system that gave access to healthcare to everyone (not un-affordable to tens of millions like the U.S.), gave people a choice of doctors with no waiting times (not having most be inaccessible due to the structure of private insurer networks), and one that encouraged competition among medical providers.
Switzerland had a system similar to the U.S. in 1994, with healthcare tied to employment. In 1996, a referendum was held and they passed the Swiss Federal Health Insurance Act of 1994. Switzerland now has guaranteed comprehensive medical treatment to all its residents and healthcare is no longer tied to employment.
Bankruptcy due to medical expenses is unheard of in these countries. Overall rates of satisfaction with healthcare among the populations run high.
The United States is the wealthiest country on earth, but the only aspects of it’s healthcare system that compares to the superior systems of some of these other countries is the Medicare system and the Veterans Administration. Nearly 30 million lack healthcare coverage and 70 million are under-insured.
PANA supports the call to expand Medicare and eliminate the monopolistic control of private insurers over most of the healthcare delivery and administrative system. We hope you will do the same:
The current private-insurer-controlled healthcare system is one of capital extraction.
The rising premiums and deductibles we pay finance political corruption to the demise of patient care.
This is why it has been a challenge to win healthcare-for-all even in a Democratic Party Supermajority state like California and why we must build increased grassroots power.
Instead of public financing of exorbitant CEO salaries, AB 1400 would help redirect this capital into local economy health infrastructure development and direct our monies towards patient-centric healthcare services, including multilingual and culturally-appropriate care in our communities.
In addition, (nationally) the current system drains $228-280 BILLION into wasteful, bureaucratic administrative costs to take away healthcare decisions from doctors, putting this power into the hands of private insurers. The multi-payer system is overly complex and wasteful by design. It needs a complete overhaul if we are to win the healthcare that other modern countries provide with single-payer systems.
Today, patient care in the United States is one of capital extraction, not one that is centered on the well-being and health of people. It views disease and illness as a source of profits and for the most part, it opposes preventative care. Pharmaceutical unregulated price-gouging that also contributes to great financial stress for working-class families, and contributes to medical debt remaining one of the top reasons for personal bankruptcy.
This is why Progressive Asian Network for Action (PANA) supports the fight to win a single-payer, Medicare-for-All healthcare system and legislative reform such as AB 1400 in California. Of particular note, it is the first healthcare reform bill that acknowledges the need for linguistically and culturally appropriate healthcare. Until the loopholes that give control over the government to the private corporate interests are closed, we will continue to have millions in the U.S. face unnecessary suffering both in terms of poor health outcomes and financial stress.
Watch this video to learn more about AB 1400 from Carmen Comsti of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United. She is the writer of AB 1400 and serves as a commissioner on CA Governor Newsom’s Healthcare Commission:
Please send a letter to your CA Assemblymember to urge them to advance AB 1400, the CalCare Act, which would guarantee healthcare coverage for ALL Californians: https://bit.ly/calcareletter2asm