By Sen. Toni Atkins
On May 4, the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives were finally successful in voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is yet unclear whether the Senate will pass the repeal bill and replace it with their own bill, but we’ll have to be ready.
There are also things the president can do to reduce funding for health care in California that don’t require legislation. We must continue to be vigilant.
The ACA isn’t perfect, and it’s had some problems in other states where insurance companies have pulled out of health care exchanges, but on balance, it’s been a success story in California. Thanks to the ACA, roughly 5 million more of our residents have obtained health insurance — either through the Covered California health care exchange or through the ACA-provided expansion of Medi-Cal.
In San Diego County, more than 350,000 people have obtained health coverage through Covered California subsidies or expanded Medi-Cal. That’s approximately 11 percent of our county’s population added to the ranks of the insured in the last few years.
Statewide, our uninsured rate has fallen to a record-low 7.1 percent. The ACA has been good for our residents, and we need to protect and defend it.
But as we do, we’re going to do the work to improve upon it. My goal is to ensure that everyone in California has access to quality health care. As I said at Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s health care town hall meeting at UCSD on March 25, the ACA is a floor, not a ceiling.
With my colleague Senator Ricardo Lara, I have introduced SB 562, the Healthy California Act. The bill would create a single-payer, universal health care system in California. What that means is that the state serves as everyone’s insurer — the state pays the providers for medical services.
In addition to providing universal coverage, the goal is to reduce overall health care costs as we streamline the system. I think we can do it.
Make no mistake, this will take a lot of hard work, and it will take time. The idea behind single-payer is simple, but the health care system is complex. There are many stakeholders, and they’ll all have valuable input to provide. We’ll listen to everyone and create the system that works the best.
I believe health care is a right. Just as we have a right to a basic education, or to be protected by police officers and firefighters, we have the right to preventative medical care.
Healthy Californians will create a healthy and prosperous California. I’m going to work hard and do my part to help make it happen.
—Sen. Toni Atkins represents San Diego’s District 39 in the California State Senate. Reach her office by phone at 619-645-3133 in San Diego, 916-651-4039 in Sacramento, or visit the District 39 website at sd39.senate.ca.gov/.