How long are we going to ask North Coast residents who have no health coverage or who struggle to pay inflated costs for medical care to wait for help?
A long time, apparently, in the view of North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
In Wood’s district, 24 percent of adults delayed filling prescriptions or getting medical services in 2014. One fifth of those adults were in only fair or poor health, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
It will soon get worse. Insurance premiums are projected to jump on average 12.5 percent next year. But the worst hit will be across rural Northern California counties, many in Wood’s district, where increases could soar as high as 30 percent.
SB 562, now stalled in the Assembly, could provide relief. It would not only guarantee coverage for all currently uninsured Californians, it would also eliminate premiums, deductibles, co-pays that prompt far too many to self-ration the care they need.
After SB 562 passed the California Senate in June, Speaker Rendon unilaterally prevented the bill from moving forward.
Wood publicly backed Rendon (“I strongly believe health care is a right,” Times-Standard, Aug. 28, Page A4). The irony is that Wood is hardly an innocent bystander. Few Californians are in a better position to improve legislation he claims falls short.
Wood chairs the Assembly Health Committee, the first Assembly body that would hold hearings and consider changes Woods claims are required. No doubt the authors of SB 562 would welcome Wood’s willingness to work on potential improvements.
Instead, Wood now touts a “Select Committee” that is not a policy body and cannot pass legislation as an alternative to a real bill frozen in the Assembly that could end the health care emergency for so many in crisis.
Assemblyman Wood and Speaker Rendon should do the job they are elected to do. Hold hearings and make any fixes on actual legislation that immediately addresses an overwhelming public need.
And as with climate action, transportation and housing, and previous healthcare legislation, if further refinements to major programs are subsequently desired, they can be implemented through additional legislation.
Thousands of Californians, who have been campaigning for SB 562 for months, have made it clear they will not settle for the empty promises of a Select Committee that has no power and looks more like a cover for inaction.
That includes volunteers who knocked on the doors of 375 Eureka residents in mid-August, one-third of whom said they’d contact Wood to urge him to push the bill forward.
It also includes the California Democratic Party whose executive board, with over 300 members, voted unanimously August 27 to endorse SB 562.
For anyone who claims that health care is a right, it’s past time to move beyond rhetoric to action. For all of those in pain today, or who are one car accident, exposure to a deadly disease or one super storm away from calamity.
Deborah Burger is a registered nurse, co-president of the California Nurses Association, and a resident of Assemblyman Jim Wood’s district.