Photos: Tom and Nadin Abbott
Video: Tom Abbott, editing, Nadin Abbott
March 35, 2017 (San Diego) Federal and State legislators attended a forum with about 200 people to update people on health care in California, and at the federal level after yesterday’s vote in Washington. Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-53) spoke as to the events yesterday in Washington. This is when the American Health Care Act was pulled. “Maxine Walters (Congresswoman) was actually next. Somebody came in, handed those in the podium a note. And it basically said that it was pulled.” The crowd exploded in applause.
Davis added that they were stunned since none expects this to happen. “People are on a roll.” Also, she was watching time, since she needed to catch a plane to get to San Diego.
She also said that the “people of this country have made a huge difference.” This was in the many town halls where people went and told their stories about the Affordable Care Act and the difference it has made in their lives. These stories made the difference with the moderates in the Republican party, who took on their leadership and voted against their leaders.
How would the passage of the AHCA affect California? Two statistics are critical here. One is that millions would have lost insurance. We are down to 7.5 percent who have no insurance in the state. The second is money. By 2024 the state could have lost upwards of $24 billion dollars in federal funds for Covered California. This is not a small amount of money. In the short term, it would be $6 billion, this is according to Assembly Member Todd Gloria. “this is real money,” he quipped.
Reporting San Diego also asked, about Senate Bill 562, “Californians for a Healthy California Act.” This bill was authorized, among others, by State Senator Toni Atkins.
We asked about how this is going to finance? This is what Gloria said, “Someone like myself who supports single payer, what we want to know is how this is going to be done. Obviously, this is not a unicorn. It exists in nature. Canada has this, plenty of other countries have it. They now how to get this done. What would that look like for California and is that a bargain we are willing to accept.”
He added, “if you believe like I do that healthcare is a right, we need to work aggressively towards this. And the truth is that there will be the heavy lift. There is no question about it. Often the ideas that are proposed in the legislature take some time, but then they become law.”
He also clarified that the law is in the very early stages. So they are still in the listening phase.
State Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez from Los Angeles also spoke on the implementation of the ACA in California. He emphasized that the state has “been a leader in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”
Hernandez also said that “Healthcare has always been controversial in this country.” Then he went on to what the state has done.
Not only were we the first to enact an exchange, but one that was actively embracing the law with an “active purchaser exchange.” This has led to one with many providers and choices. It remains the case even now. It also has led to the lowest increases in insurance rates.
It has signed up 5 million individuals. The state also embraced the Medicaid expansion. One-third of the state population is now on Medicaid, which the state names Medical.
This has led to people who have never had access to insurance before, have it for the first time in the lives. This has resulted in better quality of life and less financial exposure.
Hernandez also said that after the election they started to have hearings in the state. He is the Chair of the Health Committee. What they found was fear. There was fear that people were going to lose insurance and health care they had for the first time in their lives.
The first hearing they held was in the heart of the Central Valley. Over 50 percent of the population in the valley is on Medical. This is also an area with high rates of diabetes and asthma rates. “There was fear in people about the loss of something that they cherished.”
Over the course of the day, we heard some of those stories. They included that of Kelly Davis, who told her story from the Dais. She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Without insurance, she might not make it to the end of the year. With it. She is currently enrolled in an experimental protocol at UCSD Moores Cancer Center. Her sister, who has since passed, had three years of excellent care after developing ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Her sister also could choose to end her life under the life with dignity act on her terms.
There was another story. This one came from a man who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. His cost for the treatment was $500 dollars.
There was also support for single payer from both the audience and the dais. California is committed to this. Senator Atkins, who is behind SB562 is partly committed to it since her growing up including substandard housing and no health insurance. She does not want that future for other Californians.
She recognized Congresswoman Davis for her vision and fearlessness. Back when the ACA was first discussed, those Democratic Forums were dramatic, not unlike what we saw this month with their Republican counterparts.
She also recognized State Senator Hernandez, since he was one of the people responsible for crafting Covered California, the state side of the ACA. She also recognized the community clinics, which are the backbone of efficient health care delivery in California.
Like Davis, she also recognized the citizens who called, attended forums, sent letters, “We are not going to sit quietly by and let you dismantle a program that has for the first time brought care to millions of Americans.” She encouraged people to continue to remain involved and to track the development of her bill.
This bill is just taking form so it will take the time to develop the legislative language.