Senator Wiener’s Legislation to Ensure University of California Provides Inclusive Healthcare When Contracting with Other Health Systems Passes Senate Education Committee

March 17, 2021

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)’s legislation, Senate Bill 379, the Equitable and Inclusive UC Healthcare Act, passed the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5-2.
SB 379 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 contracts with other hospitals subjecting UC providers to harmful non-clinical restrictions limiting the kinds of services they provide to patients. SB 379 ensures that, moving forward, UC Health affiliate hospitals 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, tubal ligation, abortion, gender-affirming care, and urgent care, such as treatment for incomplete 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 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 low income people, 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.
“It is unacceptable for UC — one of the finest and most inclusive healthcare systems in the nation — to enter into contracts that literally ban UC physicians and other providers from performing reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare,” said Senator Wiener. “California and UC values embrace full healthcare access for all communities, including our most marginalized communities, and these affiliation agreements fly in the face of those values. UC needs to stop undermining its own values, and if UC won’t take that step, the Legislature will need to do it on UC’s behalf.”

The bill co-sponsors NARAL Pro-Choice California, Equality California, and ACLU of California, released the following joint statement:

“Equitable access to comprehensive and inclusive healthcare is a fundamental Californian value. Students, patients, and healthcare providers depend on the UC, a public institution, to embody those same values. We applaud the members of the Senate Education Committee for taking this critical step toward ensuring that University of California medical providers and students are able to provide high-quality, patient-centered care free from unnecessary and harmful restrictions. As states across the country continue to wage attacks on reproductive freedom and LGBTQ+ civil rights, we’re proud to co-sponsor SB 379 and look forward to seeing SB 379 advance in the California Legislature.”