Single-payer universal healthcare is within reach for Californians. On Jan. 20, Assembly Bill 1400, also known as CalCare, passed the California state assembly appropriations committee. If CalCare passes the assembly floor by Jan. 31 it will advance to the state senate.

Right now, around a third of California’s population is on Medi-Cal, a free public health insurance system that ensures bare minimum coverage. 7.3% of California’s population is uninsured.

Healthcare disparities paved the way for the COVID-19 pandemic to wreak havoc in California. COVID-19 has killed around 80,000 people in California so far. If California were a country, its COVID-19 death toll would rank 20th in the world.

Failure of the healthcare industry during COVID-19

In 2019, the Global Health Security Index (GHS), compiled as a joint project between the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, ranked the United States among one of the best prepared to address a pandemic. This proved to be far from the truth. The U.S. is still experiencing catastrophic failures across multiple sectors and leading the world with COVID-19 deaths – 882,000 at the time of writing.

Saul Kanowitz, a public health worker, described to Liberation the unmatched contributions of frontline workers, saying, “All one has to do is look at the print and electronic media to see the herculean efforts of frontline workers who literally gave their lives, through exposure to SARS-CoV-2 virus and developing COVID-19. Healthcare workers are disproportionately counted amongst the [882,000-plus] deaths.”

While healthcare workers die on the front lines, hospital executives enact widespread budget cuts and manufactured labor scarcity, citing staffing shortages to increase their profit margins. For example, elite institutions like HCA and Tenet Healthcare and Mayo Clinic awarded the top five officials in their chains a combined total of $846 million as their healthcare staff was crushed by waves of COVID-19. A nationwide survey found that 83% of nurses reported at least half of their shifts were unsafely staffed.

Kanowitz added that it is public health employees and the rest of the working class who make society run: “There are no CEO’s disproportionately represented among the dead. They were not working double shifts nor were they sequestered from their families so they could contribute to ending the pandemic.”