Senator Wiener Introduces Legislation to Ensure University of California Provides Inclusive Healthcare When Contracting with Other Health Systems

February 10, 2021

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 379, the Equitable and Inclusive UC Healthcare Act, which ensures that University of California Health System (UC Health) contracts with healthcare facilities that allow UC staff practicing in those facilities to provide a full range of healthcare services, including reproductive and gender-affirming care. UC Health has entered into healthcare facility contracts that subject UC providers to harmful non-clinical restrictions limiting the kinds of services they provide to patients. SB 379 ensures that, moving forward, UC Health healthcare facility contractors will allow UC providers to perform the full range of appropriate care.

Some of the harmful contracts UC Health has entered into explicitly prevent UC doctors and students from providing reproductive and LGBTQ inclusive care, including: contraception, sterilization, abortion, gender-affirming care, and urgent care, such as treatment for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. The status quo endangers the lives of UC patients, and this legislation ensures that UC providers are able to provide this critical care wherever they practice. SB 379 is cosponsored by Equality California, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and ACLU of California.

The University of California is a public university system and receives a significant amount of public funds ($9 billion in 2020-2021) from California’s state budget to conduct its mission. UC Health is the fourth largest health system in California, and it plays a central role in training medical students and caring for Californians. It is unacceptable to subject UC patients to discriminatory and harmful restrictions on the types of care they can receive, including reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care. California law recognizes reproductive healthcare, including abortion, as basic healthcare. California state law restricts public health entities from preferring one pregnancy outcome over another, and prohibits discrimination against transgender patients seeking gender-affirming care. Despite existing law, people in California are still being denied these very critical healthcare services.

These restrictions on care are not based on any clinical criteria, and they disproportionately impact patients of color, LGBTQ people, and people with low incomes, who already face barriers to accessing quality, affordable, and inclusive healthcare. One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clearer than ever that we must provide all Californians with high-quality, inclusive healthcare. 

Although there has been significant debate within the UC community about these contracts, the UC Regents have yet to adopt an official position on them. Up to this point, UC has displayed an unacceptable lack of transparency, leaving patients, advocates, and lawmakers in the dark about these contracts and what they could mean for basic or urgent care. As reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care continues to be restricted across the country, it is up to California to lead by example. 

Assemblymembers Christina Garcia (D-Los Angeles), Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, and Assemblymember Evan Low (D-San Jose), Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, are principal co-authors of the bill. Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) are co-authors of this legislation.

“Access to healthcare is fundamental to an equitable and successful society, and public institutions must lead by example in ensuring healthcare access,” said Senator Wiener. “UC Health is one of the very best health systems in the nation; it’s a system known for its inclusive and progressive approach to healthcare. UC’s contracts must reflect this core value of healthcare inclusion, and UC practitioners must never be prevented from providing healthcare they deem appropriate for a patient, no matter what hospital they are practicing in. UC must also stand up for access to reproductive health and gender-affirming care. This legislation ensures that the UC’s commitment to inclusive healthcare extends to all contexts.”

“The University of California is world-renowned for its leadership in comprehensive reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care — which makes contracts that limit the ability of UC doctors and students to provide basic reproductive and gender-affirming care all the more troubling,” said NARAL Pro-Choice California Director Shannon Olivieri Hovis. “After four years of unprecedented attacks on reproductive freedom and LGBTQ+ rights from the Trump Administration, SB 379 is critical to ensure that the UC lives up to its values.”

"The University of California Health System’s mission is to promote health equity, reduce barriers to health access and create inclusive opportunities for its community — but these goals are impossible to achieve when its doctors and students are forced to comply with discriminatory rules,” said Equality California Managing Director Tony Hoang. “As other states look to limit reproductive and gender-affirming care, California must lead by example and put an end to these harmful restrictions. We are grateful to Sen. Wiener in leading the fight to ensure that all UC patients receive equitable and inclusive healthcare."

"UC Health doctors and students want to provide the highest standard of care possible for their patients, the care their patients deserve,” said Elizabeth Gill, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. “Thousands of members of the UC community have spoken out about their serious concerns with UC Health’s restrictive contracts, but UC Health has ignored these concerns or responded secretly with incomplete measures. We thank Senator Weiner and the co-sponsors of this bill for bringing this issue to the legislature. We hope it results in transparent, accountable behavior from one of the biggest health care providers in the state that is also a part of our public university system."