Health Care for All

Health care is a human right, NOT a privilege. The United States must do what’s right and follow the lead of every other advanced industrial nation in guaranteeing health care for every American. We must also provide the full range of necessary health care services in a culturally competent way. This includes addressing inequities within underserved and neglected communities, protecting women’s health care rights, and treating mental health care with parity.

Every person in this country should have quality, affordable health care whether they are rich or poor, whether they are Black or brown, or white or Asian American or Native American. Every zip code. Urban, suburban, or rural, it doesn’t matter. Every person in this country – EVERYONE – should have health care 

And let me be clear. The way to guarantee health care for everyone in a way that is affordable for the nation is a single payer system.  

Barbara Lee

I am no stranger to single payer. Unlike others, I didn’t discover single payer late in my political life. I almost didn’t enter this world because my mother was denied access to quality care and almost died while giving birth. When I was a young mother, myself, I lived in England and experienced firsthand the care they afforded to every citizen. I was amazed.

I brought those experiences with me to the California State Legislature. As an Assemblymember, I fully supported the single payer initiative Proposition 186 in 1994. If passed, Prop. 186 would have introduced a state administered program to provide every Californian with health coverage. In the Senate, I partnered with Senator Nick Petris to co-author SB 36 which would have created a payroll tax system giving all Californians – not just employees or employers – access to a universal health care system. And before leaving the State Senate, I championed SB 480, which mandated a state-sponsored study of ways to achieve universal healthcare.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks about fighting for health equity at UC Berkeley in 2017.

As a psychiatric social worker with years of experience working in our communities, I didn’t need to be told the harm done to those who couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit or to buy their medications. People don’t just need quality health care, they need reliable health care, too. And you shouldn’t lose your health coverage just because you lose your job.  

I have supported every expansion of health care access and coverage in the Congress since I was first elected in 1998. That includes the Affordable Care Act. But let me tell you why a single payer plan is the superior option and, in the long term, the only option. We NEED single payer because in order to afford extending health coverage to every person in the country, we need to cut out all the expensive waste and bureaucracy the private health insurance companies create. When everyone is in the same insurance system, we can eliminate the two-tier health care system we see in far too many  of our marginalized communities. 

And with a single health insurer, we will finally be able to help bring down costs in areas like prescription drug coverage. You really cannot talk about reforming health care without taking on the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs. We have made some progress with the Inflation Reduction Act, but people continue getting gouged by big drug companies. People still cannot get their prescriptions filled due to cost. And people still cut their pills in half to get by.  

As a Senator, I will push to require that we negotiate the cost of every drug that is sold – ALL of them, not just a few – and that we make those lower prices available to all consumers, whether they are insured through a government program or not.

If we ensure every person has health coverage, then we need to ensure there are enough doctors and other health care professionals to serve the needs of the people. I have worked hard in Congress to increase the number of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals trained every year. I support expanding the National Health Service Corps to provide assistance to future doctors who agree to provide care in underserved areas. I also support every effort to expand the number of slots at medical schools, nursing schools, and other training programs for health care professions. 

As we make these expansions, it’s critically important to increase the number of doctors and psychiatrists who come from the same communities as those they serve. This is one of the ways we’ll be able to reduce the unconscionable health disparities we have in this country. That’s why I introduced the National Medical Corps Act. This bill would create federally-funded pathways for students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds to prepare for and attend medical school. As California’s next Senator, I will be in an even better position to advance this important legislation.  

I also want to speak about an element of health care that is still inaccessible to too many – mental health care. When I was a graduate student, I founded a community based mental health clinic called the Community Health Alliance for Neighborhood Growth and Education (CHANGE.)   We have to treat mental health issues like any other health issue. It’s time to get beyond the stigma. It’s time to get beyond insurance companies refusing to pay for mental health services.  It’s time the mental health services that people need are available to them in their communities.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke about her personal experience ahead of the Supreme Court overturning Roe in 2022.

Finally, I want to address the Republican war on women. Protecting and funding women’s health care is THE central pillar of a progressive health care reform agenda. For too long, Republicans have held women hostage to the GOP’s cultural agenda. With Roe v Wade being overturned, we have to re-double our efforts to fund women’s health, to remove federal restrictions of women making the right choices for themselves and their families, and codifying a federal right to reproductive health care. Women don’t need Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham or Republican state governments making their choices for them. In the U.S. Senate, I will continue fighting to protect and expand women’s health care. This issue is personal to me. And let me put the Republicans on notice: OUR rights are non-negotiable.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee appears on KPIX to discuss the need for states to pass laws to protect abortion in 2019.

Commitment to Health Care for Everyone

Five Key Points

  1. Medicare for All – we need a single payer health insurance system with no copayments and no deductibles.
  2. Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs – we need to take on the greed and price gouging of the drug companies.  People in the United States should not be paying more for the same medicines as do people in other countries.
  3. Women’s Health Care – we need to increase access to the full range of reproductive health care and enact a federal right to abortion care.  We cannot let politicians be America’s health care decision makers.
  4. Mental Health Care – we need to ensure that there are health care resources available in every community and that people are not dissuaded from getting needed care because of cost or social stigma.
  5. Expanding and Diversifying the Health Professions – we need to expand the number of doctors, nurses and other health professionals who are trained each year.  We need to engage with undergraduate colleges, including community colleges, and medical/health professional schools to create federally-funded pathways for students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds to become doctors and health care professionals.