Last week, on January 11, 2022, California’s Assembly Health Committee passed a historic bill: AB 1400 Guaranteed Health Care for All California, clearing the first hurdle in guaranteeing comprehensive, high-quality health care for all California residents. This Friday, January 21, 2022, CalCare heads to the 14-member Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Pasadena’s representative, Assemblymember Chris Holden.
Implementing CalCare would not only mean our state would lead the nation in quality health care for all, it would be a financial game-changer for school districts across the state, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
CalCare would reform how we pay for care, moving the state to a simplified healthcare payment system that will free health care providers from devoting time on billing and instead focus on patient care. CalCare offers comprehensive coverage including all primary and preventive care, hospital and outpatient services, prescription drugs, dental, vision, reproductive health services, long-term services, mental health, and more. Patients would have the freedom to choose doctors, hospitals, and other providers they wish to see, without worrying about whether a provider is ‘in-network.’ Upon receiving care, patients would not be charged any copays or other out-of-pocket costs. CalCare can negotiate bulk drug prices for all Californians and take other measures to lower the costs of prescription drugs.
CalCare would make the difference for our student populations and their families as well. Pasadena Unified School District now has over 15,000 students enrolled. Over 11,000 — more than 70% of our students — qualify for free and reduced price lunch, meaning that their families are likely low-income wage earners and are not likely to have employer-provided health benefits. This would be such a boon for education and our state. If students — and their families — have their basic medical needs met, they are healthier and more prepared to learn.
A single-payer healthcare system saves money. Multiple studies show that a single-payer healthcare system would result in lower overall costs compared to the current private insurance multi-payer system. For example, a study in 2017 by Political Economy Research Institute showed that a single-payer system would reduce overall costs by 8 percent. There are multiple revenue sources to fund the CalCare system as described in National Nurses United CalCare Financing. One way was proposed by members of the California Assembly: Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 11 on January 5, 2022. The bill would impose both a new excise tax and a new payroll tax, and increase personal income tax rates to fund universal single-payer healthcare coverage and a healthcare cost control system for state residents.
Reducing the costs of medical benefits would be a good way to shore up our school budgets. Prior to the pandemic, California school districts were already experiencing declining enrollment, and as a result, declining funding — a circumstance that has only been accelerated by the pandemic. CalCare would translate into millions of dollars in savings for school districts and cover all employees with comprehensive healthcare. California school districts pay, on average, about 85% of the costs of their workers’ medical benefits — compared to districts in other states which pay 60-80 percent. These costs include at least 30% for wasted administration and profit centers built into the current system.
It is estimated that CalCare would save money for school districts by cutting healthcare costs by half or more. For example, Pasadena Unified School District’s cost in employee medical benefits in 2020 was nearly $26M. This amount excludes the part-time employees and the out-of-pocket costs to employees. For example, if Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11 becomes the funding mechanism, Pasadena Unified would save over $20M and avoid millions in future increases to premiums. These ongoing cost savings would free up funding to go towards increasing teacher’s salaries. In addition, it would help us hire more nurses and custodians and other wrap-around service providers. The possibilities are endless for our schools.
Our school communities and our neighborhoods need to see a light at the end of this tunnel from the on-going pandemic, CalCare can be the catalyst.
California AB 1400 is endorsed by K-12 and community college trustees and organizations across California, including California Teachers Association, California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.
Join us and dozens of additional organizations including California Nurses Association and Healthy California Now, a coalition of more than 60 health care, labor and community organizations in supporting AB 1400.
Please contact Assemblymember Chris Holden, urging him to vote YES on AB 1400, an historic piece of healthcare legislation that is long overdue, before Friday, January 21, 2022. Assemblymember Holden’s contact information is located at https://a41.asmdc.org/
Tina Fredericks is a former high school math teacher, and computer engineer, living in East Pasadena with her husband and two daughters. She is a member of the PUSD Board of Education, but is speaking solely as an individual member of the Board.