On August 25, 2017, Speaker of the California Assembly, Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), announced the formation of the new Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage. The committee, co-chaired by assembly members, Joaquin Arambula, MD (D-Fresno) and Jim Wood, DDS (D-Healdsburg) will hold investigative hearings during the legislative interim this fall.
The Speaker’s statement:
“The fight to protect the Affordable Care Act helped galvanize the principle that health care is a basic right,” Rendon said. “There are several different approaches being proposed, including Medicare for all, single payer, hybrid systems and ACA expansion. I have called for these hearings to determine what approach best gets us there – what gets us to ‘yes’ when it comes to health care for all.”
Speaker Rendon stressed that the hearings would not simply go back over information covered in the past, but will provide a new opportunity to determine the best and quickest path forward toward universal health care. Overcoming potential federal and constitutional obstacles, ensuring delivery of care, and examining funding mechanisms will all be part of the committee’s purview.
“It’s not a question of debating whether we move toward health care for all – it’s a matter of choosing how best and how soon,” Rendon said. “The committee’s work will help fill the void of due diligence that should have been done on SB 562 or any universal health care bill that so profoundly affects so many Californians.”
“It is my direction that these hearings be focused and thorough, and produce real results,” Rendon said. “In addition to the oaths they took as legislators, Dr. Wood and Dr. Arambula have also taken oaths to protect and defend patients’ health, so I know they will take a vigorous approach to this challenge, and the committee will begin the heavy lifting needed to advance serious proposals for health care for all.”
ITUP is committed to working with state policymakers in both houses to further health care reform and will actively participate in the debate and exploration the Assembly is initiating. ITUP recently developed a framework for consideration of health care reform proposals that will hopefully assist the new committee and other state policymakers in shaping the agenda for this important conversation.
Select Committee Creation Timely
Appointment of the dedicated Selet Committee comes at a critical time for health care reform in California. California made substantial progress in implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), reducing the number of uninsured in the state from more than seven million to less than three million. As a result of ACA implementation, and other related California-specific policies, coverage is universally available for low- and moderate- income citizen adults and other residents, through Medi-Cal or Covered California, and for all low-income children regardless of immigration status through Medi-Cal.
However, California’s progress is under threat as Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and the President press for potentially sweeping changes to the ACA. The state must remain focused on fighting federal proposals that would roll back the state’s success. At the same time, California continues to have nearly three million remaining uninsured, as well as access and affordability challenges throughout the state’s health care system.
For these reasons, ITUP agrees that a statewide conversation on universal coverage in California is timely. It is important for state health care leaders to fully examine the status of coverage and care in the state, including a practical assessement of the implications from a reduced federal commitment to health care. California led the way in embracing the ACA and must continue its leadership by identifying a clear path and timeline for universal coverage (coverage for all) and the critical delivery system advances that will improve access, promote quality and reduce health care costs.
ITUP has been tracking and analyzing federal legislation through its ACA Watch publication series and will continue to do so. In addition, ITUP is currently in the field for regional workshops that bring local health care leaders together for analysis and discussion of health care challenges and solutions. Upcoming workshops will engage participants in identifying information, suggestions and options which ITUP will bring to the state-level conversation. The annual ITUP conference in Sacramento February 6-7, 2018 will also be timely for highlighting and refining the emerging reform options.
This is a critical juncture for health reform in California. ITUP believes California will continue to be up to the challenges it faces.