No on SB 770 Letter to CA Asm Committee on Health

letterhead screengrab

June 21, 2023

Assemblymember Jim Wood
Chair of the Assembly Health Committee
1020 N Street, Suite 390
Sacramento, CA 95841

RE: SB 770 (Wiener), Health care: unified health care financing — OPPOSE

Dear Chair Wood,

Asian/Pacific Islanders for CalCare (API for CalCare) respectfully OPPOSES Senate Bill 770 (Wiener). This bill, as amended, would establish a working group tasked with advising the Governor on informal engagement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (federal HHS) on federal waiver authorities for a “unified financing” system of health care in California.

As a statewide organization, we strongly support CalCare/AB 1690 because it represents a course to pursue establishment of a patient-centered healthcare system that will address longstanding Asian and Pacific Islander healthcare disparities.

SB 770 seeks to deny a meaningful opportunity for our communities and that of other marginalized groups such as the Native Americans, African Americans, Latino/a Americans and LGBTQIA+ communities to have input into crafting actual, substantive legislation to address our needs. Historically, our communities’ needs were ignored and we were left fighting for resources after programs were established. Our needs are valid. Our opinions matter.

Asian Americans are still being scapegoated for the COVID-19 pandemic, and blamed for America’s economic woes. We get attacked, in the street, on trains and buses, or at home, and enter the healthcare system. Many work in small businesses, so our communities are underinsured, and individuals are forced to bear the costs of healthcare while they aren’t able to work. A few, with English speaking family and Internet savvy, turn to desperate GoFundMe campaigns, begging for money to cover hospital costs related to attacks. Some recover, and are traumatized. Some die, and their expenses end, but some are permanently disabled, and the expenses continue.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Asian American young adults age 15-24. This is true of no other ethnic group in this age range in the U.S. Our youth have nowhere to turn to for culturally-sensitive or linguistically-appropriate counseling. Nor, appropriate therapy to work through trauma of social isolation, discrimination and for being targets of racist violence.

Less than five short pre-pandemic years ago, studies confirmed that 25% of Korean Americans and 20% of Vietnamese Americans lacked health coverage. Our friends at the Thai Community Development Center in Los Angeles inform us that over 60% of Thai Americans lack health insurance.

It would not be irrational to speculate that the numbers of uninsured people have worsened as employer-health benefits were lost in the process of millions becoming unemployed due to the pandemic.

Asian/Pacific Islanders work in healthcare.

We are administrators, nurses, doctors and underpaid homecare workers. The majority of us are immigrants and face discrimination and too often, disrespect and even abuse.

We deserve to have input in crafting of new healthcare reform legislation.

Wasting time on a legislative proposal such as SB 770 that willfully ignores existing Federal Law (the Affordable Care Act Section 1332, for example) or advocates establishment of an un-elected “working group” to repeat of 2.5 years of the Healthy California for All Commission‘s already published would be nothing abut a distraction and a waste of public resources. We do not need more “studies” and idle talk.

Our communities need substantive reform legislation that prioritizes patient care over private interests. We need action to change this system, not further postponement of a CalCare process that will allow for this to happen.

SB 770’s “unified financing” is double-speak to undermine a single-payer health insurance system.

“Unified Financing” seeks to include health insurance plans and other middlemen that squeeze profit out of patients by delaying and denying care. It is the polar opposite of what the majority of California’s voters desire – running counter to what public polling has established.

Californians want a patient-centered, true single payer system.

SB 770 would delay the transformation of our current fragmented system of health insurance into a coherent system that guarantees healthcare for all. We cannot afford to wait – delays are paid through the health and lives of Californians. With well over 3 million Californians uninsured and millions more delaying or skipping care due to costs, we cannot afford to risk our peoples’ lives for the sake of time and resources wasted by SB 770.

For these reasons, we respectfully oppose SB 770 and urge you to vote “no” when it comes before you in committee.

Linda Okamura signature