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, not only when sick but also to prevent illness and stay healthy.

As a doctor, I have seen patients suffer far more than necessary. This is not because we don’t know how to treat their illness, but simply because they were underinsured or had no insurance. This is a terrible injustice, and someday I believe we will look back at this unnecessary suffering as a kind of savagery – just as we now look back at eras when slavery or child labor were legal.

Although we can deliver some of the most advanced healthcare in the world, our current healthcare delivery system is at the same time 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 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. 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 – before the legislature right now is the way to go.

Working for universal healthcare coverage is important, but I know it’s not enough just to have health insurance. 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.

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

Not all barriers to health care are about insurance.  We need to make sure that we are training enough nurses and doctors and other caregivers of all types, and that adequate numbers work in underserved urban areas and rural areas of the state.

A vital area is access to mental health services, which has been too often the forgotten stepchild in our health system.  We need mental health parity.


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 brand name drugs on patents. However, generic drug manufacturers are now getting into the act, and 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 as well as look for other 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.

Here is the point:  if price gougers want to push around and threaten the health of people in this state, California has the size and strength to fight back to defend its residents.  As a Navy officer I took on the job of helping defend the people of our country, and I will lead in the same way if the people put me in the legislature.  There is no question that lack of access to health care and medications killed more Californians than terrorists last year; we need leaders willing to bring the same vigor and firmness to the health care fight.

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 versus 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 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 this rate is rising. This is just unacceptable. Poor access to complete counseling and care are to blame. I will fight for reproductive rights. I want to hear from you about what you are most concerned about or hoping for from Sacramento.  Join me in a basic strategy to keep Planned Parenthood funded in California:  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. If elected, I will propose creation of a California Gun Violence Reduction Research Program 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 on our own in California when radical ideologues banned stem cell research, we can do the same with gun violence reduction.

And we could base a research center and program right here in the 51st  Assembly District, taking advantage of the knowledge and expertise of the worlds’ experts at Los Angeles County / USC Medical Center. It will promote community-based participatory research and become the leading edge in scientific inquiry on gun violence.  Good thinking and good studies lead to good policy.

I take the U.S. constitution seriously but no right in the Bill of Rights – including 2nd Amendment rights – is without exception or limits.  We must continue to look at background checks and other safeguards – again, based on good knowledge of what works – to stop killing and harming people in this state.