The Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act (HCEGA): An Immediate Step toward Health Justice
by Marcia Stedman, President
For many years, Health Care for All-Washington has focused on achieving state-based single-payer healthcare, and in the past few years, together with our allies, we have made important steps toward our goal. But that was before the COVID-19 pandemic decimated our health, our economy, and our state budget. We need action now! And, with Washington’s predicted budget shortfall at $8.8 billion over the next two years, that means action at the Federal level.
While there are several healthcare proposals currently before Congress, only the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act (HCEGA) adequately responds to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Sponsored in the House by Washington’s own Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and in the Senate by Bernie Sanders, HR 6906 & S 3790 would:
• Take effect immediately and continue until an effective vaccine iswidely available
• Remove cost barriers to all health care regardless of income, employment, insurance status, or immigration status during the pandemic
• Leave existing private and public health plans in place during the pandemic, no need to enroll in a new plan or program
Statistics show that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous and Hispanic people. In King County, the mid-May COVID-19 infection rate for Blacks was nearly 4 times that of Whites, and for Hispanics it was 9-fold that of Whites. Hispanics had nearly 6 times the COVID deaths as Whites, after adjusting for age differences in the populations.
As an immediate step toward health equity, the HCEGA would enable everybody to get the health care they need when they need it, and begin to heal our society as well. So, while we continue working for state-based universal health care, Health Care for All-Washington also strongly supports the HCEGA. Together with our allies in the Health Care is a Human Right Campaign, and joined by 71 other grassroots, labor union, and
community organizations who signed on to it, we recently sent a letter to the entire Washington Congressional delegation, urging them to support and co-sponsor the HCEGA. We also sent a copy of the letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, noting that the HCEGA would provide immediate health care access to everyone in the U.S. without further straining state budgets, and urging his support of the Act, both with our Congressional delegation and with other members of the National Governors Association.
We encourage individuals to also contact their Congresspeople and to urge their support of the HCEGA. Full details can be seen in the June 2020 e.Bulletin.
We need quick action now in order to safely reopen our economy and begin to address the shocking health care disparities in our state and nation.