Ron Birnbaum for Assembly | Universal Health Care
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Universal Healthcare Coverage and Access

 

Healthcare is a human right. My top priority is making sure every California resident has effective and comprehensive health insurance that not only covers their illnesses, but also helps them prevent illness and stay healthy.

As a doctor, I have seen patients suffer unnecessarily. This is not because we don’t know how to treat them, but because they are underinsured or have no insurance. This is a terrible injustice.

Although we can deliver the most advanced healthcare in the world, our current system is pointlessly stupid and cruel. Stupid, because we spend more money than any other country on healthcare delivery (generally twice as much) and yet we get worse health results. Cruel, because we leave millions with no insurance and many more with inadequate insurance, and we exclude many of our most vulnerable neighbors from access to basic care. We know this is wrong. Fortunately, I have the experience to help change this injustice, and together we can make it right.

Currently, insurance companies dictate care and provider choice; medical billing is incredibly complicated; and good, whole-person preventive care is something limited to few among us. We waste a third of every healthcare dollar that we spend on administration and overhead—precious resources that should go to providing healthcare and covering everybody.

I will make sure:

  • All Californians have coverage and access to high-quality healthcare, regardless of income.
  • Doctors and other providers spend more time with their patients and far less time on paperwork and getting insurance company approvals.
  • California saves employers money by ending the link between employment and health insurance. If you run an ice cream shop, I want to make sure all your employees already have health insurance so you can focus on making ice cream and growing your business, not negotiating health plans and doing paperwork.
  • California can end, once and for all, medical bankruptcies and gut-wrenching anxieties about healthcare costs.

California has the opportunity to be a national leader in healthcare reform. I fought hard for the passage of the Affordable Care Act to ensure coverage for as many Californians as possible, and now I’m fighting for single-payer legislation (sometimes called “Medicare for All”). Single-payer will be better because it ensures that everyone has the same coverage, simplifies billing and payment, and eliminates profit motives of big insurance companies. SB-562—the Healthy California Act, which is before the legislature right now—is the way to go.

Healthcare is a human right, and I will not stop fighting until everyone can get the care they need without worry.

If you have ideas about how to make healthcare more affordable and accessible, write me here.

Healthcare – Access

Working for universal healthcare coverage is important, but I know it’s not enough just to have health insurance. Not all barriers to health care are about insurance. We need to train caregivers of all types, including doctors and nurses, and ensure that we have an adequate workforce in underserved urban and rural areas.

People across District 51 need to be able to get the right kind of care at the right time. A few years ago, I looked into how many community dermatologists in LA County accept Medi-Cal. I found five. This means that if you’re on public health insurance, you wait for months or even years to be seen for preventive screening and testing. I will not tolerate that injustice. I will work to ensure that people across California, including in underserved urban and rural areas, can readily see doctors and other healthcare providers.

Part of ensuring access to health care is making sure that people have access to mental health services, which has been too often forgotten in our health system.  We need mental health parity, and I will fight to make sure that as we expand coverage and access to care, there is equal access to mental health care.

Healthcare – Drug Prices

I want healthcare to be more about care and less about corporate profit. We all know that drug prices are too high, and the problem is just getting worse. It used to be that the main problem was expensive, patented, brand-name drugs. However, generic drug manufacturers are now getting into the act, and some are charging more and more for drugs that used to be inexpensive and readily available. I will fight outrageous price gouging in generic drugs, and will push for anti-trust enforcement and also look for alternative approaches.

We can and should look for innovative ways to combat this problem in California. One approach would be to establish a state-run or state-regulated utility that would make and supply key generic drugs – like insulin or Epi-Pens – at cost or at a regulated modest profit. Another would be to legislate price limits.

The bottom line is this: if price gougers threaten the health of people in this state, California has the size and strength to fight back to defend its residents. We need leaders willing to bring strength and conviction to the fight for fair and transparent drug pricing.

I have not and will not accept any contribution from Big Pharma, giant health systems, insurance companies, or any corporations at all. They can keep their money. I’m here to work for you!

Healthcare – Your Health Records

Patients should focus on working with their doctors and understanding their healthcare, not chasing around medical records and signing forms. As a doctor, I can provide exceptional healthcare only when I have complete and accurate information. I’m also a patient and a parent. I know this problem from all sides. My family and I can only get great care when our doctors have the information they need. I’ll stand up for the safe and confidential sharing of electronic medical records, designed for patient care rather than corporate, competitive advantage. We should have interoperable medical records in California.

Healthcare – Reproductive Rights

I am committed to making sure all Californians have access to the healthcare they need. I will stand up for comprehensive women’s healthcare, which includes free contraception, access to safe abortion and post-abortion care, and care for women experiencing miscarriages or other challenges with pregnancy. The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal deaths of all developed countries and the rate is rising. This is just unacceptable. Poor access to complete counseling and care are to blame.

I will fight for reproductive rights. I support legislation that stops employers from limiting employees’ access to reproductive care, and will work ensure that we keep Planned Parenthood funded in California, and give every woman in the state comprehensive health insurance via the Healthy California Act.

 

Healthcare – Gun Violence

California should lead the country in reducing gun violence. I am pleased to see the establishment of the Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis that will give us the tools we need to meet this vital goal. Right now the gun makers’ lobby has such a stranglehold on Washington that they have banned the federal government from conducting this research. But just as we decided to go it alone in California when radical ideologues banned stem cell research, we can do the same with gun violence reduction.

In addition to supporting state funding of the Firearm Violence Research Center, I will work to find partnership opportunities with USC and the Los Angeles County / USC Medical Center so we can take advantage of world-class expertise right here in the 51st Assembly District. Through these opportunities, we will promote community-based participatory research and help California become a national leader in the scientific inquiry on gun violence. Good thinking and good studies lead to good policy.

 

Second Amendment rights must come with limits. I support recently-passed legislation which restricts who may carry a gun and where it may be carried. But, we must continue to look at background checks and other safeguards – based on what we already know works – to stop the killing and the innumerable other harms caused by gun violence.