A caravan of more than 20 cars made its way through downtown Petaluma this past Saturday, Feb. 6, honking horns and waving handmade signs at passing cars and pedestrians as it zigzagged from the Petaluma Fairgrounds to Petaluma City Hall.
The caravan, made up of North Bay health care advocates working with the California Nurses Association, was part of a statewide day of action calling on state legislators to introduce California Guaranteed Health Care for All, also known as CalCare.
Advocates for Calcare compare it to Medicare for All and say that CalCare is a single-payer bill that would guarantee health care as a human right in the state of California.
For the Feb. 6 day of action, activists and nurses hosted car caravans in 23 cities across the state to highlight the need for universal health care. That need has only increased during the Covid-19 health crisis that is directly impacting the state, including more than 2.7 million Californians who currently lack health insurance.
Petaluma resident and event organizer Hilary Smith describes herself as an accountant who supports guaranteed jobs, housing and healthcare.
“That’s the way I think our society should work,” Smith says. “If I get opportunities to work toward that, I try to take them.”
The California Nurses Association brought the event to Smith’s attention, and she coordinated with the association to organize the Petaluma caravan and ensure that participants practiced physical distancing, mask wearing, and other Covid-related safety guidelines during the event.
Smith and the nurses got plenty of support from passing cars and pedestrians during the caravan. Overall, the event remained peaceful and positive throughout its course. Smith adds that the caravan ended at Petaluma City Hall because assembly member Mark Levine has an office there.
“We’re trying to press legislators to introduce the CalCare single payer bill into the legislature this session, right away,” Smith says. “If that happens, we know more events and pressure will need to be brought to get it passed and signed.”
Smith adds that the state needs a Medicare waiver from the federal government for a single-payer system. Yet, the waiver happens after the state legislation.
“About 15 million Americans have lost employer-provided health insurance since the pandemic started,” said Linda Carpenter, who participated in the caravan. “This includes Americans who were laid off, and their dependents. With a single-payer system, this just simply would not have happened.”
Another event attendee, Marian Killian added that CalCare is important to her, “because I want to live in a society that values all people, a humane society.”
According to CNA president Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, the U.S. has long looked to California for guidance in the fight for universal health care.
“We’ve come closer than any other state in history to passing guaranteed health care for all our residents,” Triunfo-Cortez says. “The nurses will always do what it takes to protect our patients, and we know CalCare will save lives.”
Visit Medicare4all.org for more information on CalCare.