As health care continues to take center stage on Capitol Hill and across the country, students and professionals from the Keck School of Medicine traveled to Sacramento this weekend to lobby for single-payer health care.
Hosted by the California Health Professional Student Alliance, Lobby Day 2010 served as a venue for more than 500 medical students and professionals to appeal to state legislators in hopes of gaining support for a statewide, single-payer health care bill.
The USC group California Student Physicians for Healthcare Reform helped spread the word about Lobby Day and recruited nearly 50 Keck students and professionals who are passionate about single-payer health care.
“For me it was attractive to get started and learn about how I can make an impact in health care and in California,” said Kristen Gregory, a second-year medical student and co-president of CSPHR.
More than 450 people attended the lobby day, according to Chris Scannell, Lobby Day chair and a fourth-year Ph.D. medical student at Keck.
On the first day of the conference, participants were trained on the issue and ways to approach it with legislators. Then, participants spent the second day speaking with legislators after a rally that drew as many as 1,000 people.
Scannell said the group was hoping to engage legislators — particularly those with Republican affiliations — to generate discussion in advance of a key vote on the billing slated for later this week.
The bill, known as SB 810 or the California Universal Healthcare Act, would create a public agency to provide every resident of California with health insurance through a single-payer health care system.
The single-payer SB 810 bill has passed through the California legislature twice before but was vetoed twice by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“In the past, it’s been divided along strict party lines,” Scannell said. “It seems like [this time] they were willing to talk about it.”
Scannell said many opponents of the bill are concerned about the costs of implementing a single-payer health care system.
“You raise taxes in order to implement this, but that’s the case with any type of social program you enact in the beginning,” he said.
Some citizens and lawmakers are also against increasing government involvement in health care, Scannell said, but he and others who participated in the Student Lobby Day argued that health care is one of few public services that remains privatized.
“We already have police, fire, postal services … These are all sources we rely on and we would never think of privatizing them and I think health care’s the same,” he said.
In light of the upcoming governor’s race, students who attended Lobby Day are hopeful the bill will eventually pass and take effect, according to Scannell.
“This will be kind of a changing of the guard with the new governor election … It’s important that we’re [at Lobby Day] again this year to show support for it,” Scannell said.
Aaron Case, a second-year medical student and CSPHR member said he felt the event was an effective way to reach out to legislators and have an impact.
“I went in there and told my story about how I was a poor, struggling musician without health insurance. I was scared about it most of the time,” Case said.
Case said he has been able to convince legislators to back the bill in the past, and he hopes Lobby Day will continue to garner support in the future.
“This is the first time I felt like I was actually talking to somebody who was going to be able to do something about this,” he said.