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Now is the time for single-payer health care in California

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Senate Bill 562, the Healthy California Act, would make single-payer health care available to all Californians. (Supannee Hickman/Shutterstock)
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In the wake of the failed effort to repeal Obamacare, there’s a groundswell of support rising to bring the dream of single-payer health care to California.

Senators Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, have introduced Senate Bill 562, the Healthy California Act. SB 562 would make single-payer health care available to all Californians regardless of income or immigration status by providing essential services under Medi-Cal.

This legislation would improve the lives of all Californians. But for people with disabilities, it would be a sea change toward equality. Being able to live and thrive in one’s own home — from the cradle to the grave — should be an available choice to all Californians. But as the disability rights group ADAPT explains, “Our long-term care system has a heavy institutional bias. Every state that receives Medicaid must provide nursing home services, but community based services are optional.” SB 562 would immediately end this biased system.

Disability has always been a normal part of the human condition, and it calls for community supports in the least restrictive environment possible. Long Term Supports and Services include everything from providing access to in-home specialty care for children like 9-year-old Jada, living with a developmental disability in Grass Valley, to facilitating the conditions necessary for elders like 91-year-old San Franciscan Ruth, who broke her hip last month, to age in the senior housing community she knows and loves. Providing universal LTSS in California would ensure the right to receive care in-home, with parity of services as a standard for benefits across the state.

LTSS includes disability-related provisions, such as providing in-home help for people with psychiatric disabilities struggling with hoarding so as to prevent eviction and reduce homelessness; ensures access to durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and advanced prosthetic devices; and ensures that workers’ centers and caregivers who are not a part of organized labor unions are paid fairly. These are all simple things that can keep people in their homes, and they are all human responses to human needs.

As the saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

According to Jessica Lehman, executive director of Senior and Disability Action, “San Francisco seniors, people with disabilities and our children and families are hurting under our current health care system. People are facing exorbitant co-pays and premiums, lack of access to doctors and vital services that are not covered at all — from mental health, to wheelchairs, to home care. The cost of living is so high in San Francisco that people are going without the health care that they desperately need.”

This is why SB 562 is so urgently needed. Now is the time to work in broad coalitions to pass the Healthy California Act. Something as common as having a disability shouldn’t cause San Franciscans to be forced out of their homes. The impacts of aging should not be measured by one’s ability to accumulate wealth. Disability touches people from all walks of life and all identities.

Universal LTSS is the best way to support the tapestry of communities that make up California. Single-payer health care is good for everyone.

Jessie Lorenz is executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco.

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