California activists keep pushing for single payer health bill

Progressive groups continue their efforts to pressure the legislature to revive the single payer health care bill.
Progressive groups continue their efforts to pressure the legislature to revive the single payer health care bill.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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Advocates of moving California to a single-payer health care system will knock on doors this weekend, with the goal of pressuring the Speaker of the State Assembly to bring the issue back before lawmakers when they return from recess on Monday. Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) shelved a bill that would have put the state in charge of paying for all Californians' health care in June, calling it "woefully incomplete."

The California Nurses Association launches a coordinated statewide canvassing effort with other activist groups on Saturday, and similar events are planned for every weekend for the next month. 

The State Senate passed the bill, SB 562, but Rendon pulled it from consideration because it did not have details on which type of single-payer system would be implemented or how it would be paid for. Some frustrated activists began an effort to recall Rendon; the Nurses Association has said it is not joining that campaign.

Los Angeles attorney Katrina Bergstrom, a state Democratic party delegate, laughs when she thinks back on how much time she’s invested in supporting the bill over the past year.

"SB 562 has been my life," she says, adding that dozens of other volunteers have joined her canvassing in the L.A. area.

The most focused efforts will be in Democratic assemblymembers’ districts, says Bergstrom.

"We can’t just give up because the Assembly shelves it indefinitely," she says. "We have to continue this conversation. We have to push for this."

When she canvasses, Bergstrom says she tells people, "We want to know what your experience is. What do you think about this? It’s meant to be more of an open conversation, which I think is so desperately needed."

is the government relations director for the California Nurses Association has held town halls on health care, says Don Nielson, the group's government relations director. He says some of those who have attended are among the 7 percent of people in California without insurance.

"Or even if they have health insurance, it’s inadequate," says Nielson. "They can’t afford it. The prices and premiums and deductibles keep going up."

If the Democratic-controlled legislature doesn't reconsider the single-payer bill, it will be because it lacks the "political will" to do so, he says. "And so we’re trying to change that."

Rendon can bring the bill back this year or next, since the legislature is in a two-year session.