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NUHW co-hosts Latinx Medicare for All town hall with Dolores Huerta

NewsJanuary 25, 2022

Healthy California Now and NUHW hosted a panel discussion on January 11 with civil rights icon Dolores Huerta and other Latinx leaders to discuss how barriers to health care have impacted Latinx and immigrant communities during the pandemic and how Medicare for All in California can eliminate health disparities.

“We have to embrace Medicare for All as something that is not only critical and essential, but necessary for the survival of our community,” said David Campos, vice chairperson of the California Democratic Party and a candidate for State Assembly in San Francisco. “We owe it to the Latinos and Latinas who have died to make sure that never happens again.”

The forum took place as the state legislature is considering Medicare for All legislation (AB 1400) and Governor Newsom’s Healthy California for All Commission is preparing a report on how the state can transition to a single-payer Medicare for All healthcare system. 

“Sí se puede, we can be the first in the nation to cover all residents, including the undocumented, with health care,” Huerta said during the panel discussion.

In California, Latinx residents between 20 and 54 have died from COVID-19 at a rate more than eight times higher than that of white people in the same age group. A UCLA researcher found that collectively Latinx Californians have lost approximately 370,000 years of potential life to COVID-19. 

A study published earlier this year by healthcare advocacy group Families USA found that one-third of COVID-19 deaths have been linked to a lack of health insurance.

While Medicare for All is stalled at the federal level, Governor Newsom can put California on the fast track to Medicare for All by initiating discussions with the Biden Administration to secure federal waivers allowing healthcare dollars already flowing into California to be used for a publicly-run Medicare for All system. Under the new system, healthcare would no longer be tied to employment and all Californians would be able to choose their own doctors and get the same standard of care.

An analysis conducted for Newsom’s Healthy California for All Commission found that if a California Medicare for All system was developed it would not only save lives, it would also save hundreds of billions of dollars in its first 10 years of implementation as well as help workers win higher wages and cities devote more resources to help residents.

Other participants in the panel discussion also made the case for Medicare for All.

“We spend countless hours at the bargaining table just to protect the benefits we already have,” said Ada Briceño, co-President of Unite Here Local 11. “Medicare for All would eliminate a big percentage of our contract disputes, and most importantly, it would free us to organize for fair wages, retirement benefits, and ending discrimination of all kinds on the jobs.”

San Francisco Supervisor Myrna Melgar and Alhambra Councilmember Sasha Renee Perez said freeing up funds from health care would help their cities invest in affordable housing, public transportation, and other programs to reduce economic inequality for Latinos.