This question, and several others were asked and answered on Saturday, September 28th, when about 70 interested community members attended a Health Care Action Forum hosted by Indivisible CA-39, Health Access, and CA-39 Action Council at the Embassy Suites in Brea. When the majority of people in our country agree that access to health care is one of the most important issues of our day, why are some still faced with “health care bankruptcy”? While there is broad support for universal health care, why are there continued disparities for access among some groups? As with most big social issues, health care is complex and requires that we consider health insurance and quality of care from a variety of perspectives.
The topic for discussion at this event was the current state of health care and health insurance in our State. Speakers included Martin Medrano, District Director for Congressman Gil Cisneros; Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access; and Shana Charles, PhD, professor of Public Health at CSUF.
Mr. Medrano focused on legislative priorities of our Congressman, Gil Cisneros, including support for lower insurance premiums and prescription drug costs, as well as to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010. As a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee of the House, Mr. Cisneros has sponsored legislation specifically to meet the unique health care needs of women veterans.
Anthony Wright informed the audience of the goals of Health Access to protect the rights of patients and the public, including supporting universal health care in California. Many people and families are just one health care emergency or crisis away from economic devastation, and Mr. Medrano addressed this relationship of health care and economic insecurity. He spoke about some of the ways that Health Access has worked to improve or to maintain health care in the State, including increasing enrollment periods for health insurance to 12 weeks, support for Covered California and associated subsidies for low-middle income families, health care for all children regardless of immigration status, and to promote the use of generic drugs rather than more expensive prescriptions. Health Access has worked to improve the rate of health care access in California, and in 2019 there are currently 7% of Californians uninsured, down from a high of 18% (pre-Obamacare) uninsured in 2009. Health Access has a goal of having less than 5% uninsured within the next two years. Other important goals for future health care needs in our State include no loss of benefits for those individuals considered to be a public charge. There are several State bills pending, including a bill to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by allowing more rapid access to generic brands (AB824), review of rates for health insurance (AB731), and requirements for reporting of data on quality of care and to reduce disparity in health care access among minority groups (AB929). More information can be obtained through www.health-access.org.
Finally, Shana Charles, PhD focused on the importance of the ACA and how it has made a difference in the lives of many throughout our nation. She estimated that 42,000 people would die each year if it were not for the ACA and greater access to health care. Dr. Charles spoke about the change in attitude towards health care by people from all political parties and the need for increased services. Since 2015 the support for increased health care access has increased among members of all political parties, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, with increased support for the ACA and for universal health care access. Currently, about half of Republicans favor universal health care, Independents with a strong majority favoring increased health care access, and more than 90% of Democrats favoring health care for all. Clearly, health care and access to quality care is an important issue of our time, and affects us all.
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