Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – A well-attended Eureka rally last week in support of a tabled single-payer healthcare bill was part of a coordinated effort to pressure Assemblymember Jim Wood to move the legislation out of suspension.
Doctors, nurses, patients and other single payer or government-run healthcare advocates gathered at Wood’s office on Fifth Street in Eureka on Sept. 13, dressed in black and holding tombstone-shaped signs that read, “Every day without health care kills” and “real people die and suffer without healthcare.”
A procession to the rally site used a realistic-looking plastic skeleton to depict lack of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Senate Bill 562 – the Healthy California Act – was passed by the state Senate last June. But Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon tabled the bill, describing it as being “woefully incomplete,” particularly in regard to financing.
The backlash against SB562’s tabling includes a recall campaign against Rendon.
Wood has supported referring the bill to a select committee that will soon hold hearings to address what he’s described as “significant details” that are missing.
Introducing a series of speakers, Green Party Member David Cobb said the bill’s tabling as a “injustice” that is happening “because we have an elected official – Jim Wood – who is refusing to allow this bill to go through the legislative process.”
Standing in a pick-up truck’s flatbed, Katheryn Donahue of the California Nurses Association and North Coast People’s Alliance said SB 562 needs swift approval.
“Please, please speak with Mr. Wood and tell him it’s not okay that he thinks it’s alright to stand behind the speaker of the Assembly and keep this bill on the shelf so people cannot get access to health care,” she continued.
Pat Kanzler, also of the California Nurses Association and other groups rallying for a single payer system, said the interests of patients are being eclipsed by corporate special interests.
“I’ve been a nurse for 30 years and it just gets my gut that we’re taking care of insurance companies and we’re taking care of the wealthy, and the poor people don’t have anything, they can’t afford it,” she said. “We have to hold our politicians accountable – look at what Jim Wood is doing, he’s taking money from insurance companies, he’s not working for his constituents.”
Patty Harvey of the Humboldt chapter of Health Care for All said insurance and pharmaceutical companies are involved in “propaganda that will lead you to believe negative things about this bill” which needs to be countered through grassroots organizing.
“Our goal is to let people know what single payer is and what it is not,” she continued. “We need to get the information out or people will be vulnerable to the myths and lies of corporations.”
The rally moved from Fifth Street into Wood’s office, where people dropped off their signs and letters to Wood urging him to push for immediate action on SB562.
The rally was one of several “die-ins” held at each of Wood’s district offices. Wood released a statement in advance of the rallies that said, “Although SB 562 was held in the Assembly this year, solutions to move toward universal health care are in the works, and I hope these advocates are not stuck on this one solution to achieve health care for all.”
Wood stated that the select committee will hold meetings to “hear from experts and address some significant details that were not included in SB 562, such as funding mechanisms, quality control and the possible impact of federal action on the Affordable Care Act.”