My campaign is dedicated to giving voice to all Californians. And the most powerful thing about giving voice to everyone is that when you actually hear from Californians, you understand clearly that our residents want real solutions – not false promises.
What I am hearing everywhere I go (and that’s just about everywhere) is that preserving The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is one of the very highest priorities for Californians. The ACA is working. The Republican plan to gut it is a false promise that will endanger millions of Californians.
In California, the ACA is bringing life-saving and life-changing care to 3.7 million Californians, and it is one of the most important parts of our health care systems.
That’s why our number one health goal as a state must be to protect the ACA by standing up to the Republican plan to kill it – or, if they eventually do succeed in repealing or gutting this program, to fund it here in California.
Our second goal must be to continue to extend coverage to more Californians, until coverage is universal. We have worked tirelessly to make sure Californians have health insurance and our work is paying off. Nearly 92 percent of the state’s residents now have coverage – including one-third of the state which is covered under Medi-Cal. But 92% is not 100% which is why I strongly support moving forward with plans to craft a “Public Option,” that would allow Californians to buy into public programs for their insurance coverage.
But even when everyone has coverage, we will still need to keep working to make sure that obtaining insurance guarantees quality medical treatment when our loved ones and neighbors need it.
That’s why our goals also need to include protecting and enhancing Medi-Cal, which covers Californians from all walks of life: from the working single mother in National City, to the disabled son of a Central Valley farmer and the college student studying computer science in Arcata. It also covers half of all children in California.
Medi-Cal patients are three times more likely than those with private insurance to have trouble accessing the life-saving care that they are promised. This is largely because Medi-Cal patients far outnumber providers in the Medi-Cal program – and because the doctors, dentists and clinics that Californians rely on for medical care are paid at rates lower than nearly every other state – including Texas, West Virginia and Alaska.
What does this mean for Californians? When a Medi-Cal patient gets sick, they face longer wait times to make an appointment, or they may need to travel thirty, forty or fifty miles to find a provider who can accept new patients. This type of delay is unacceptable when it means a patient must wait months for life-saving cancer treatment.
The good news is that Californians spoke up and overwhelmingly passed Proposition 56, the tobacco tax measure, last November. This $2 tax on cigarettes and tobacco products has generated over a billion dollars in revenues that voters approved to improve patient access to medical and dental care in the Medi-Cal program. The proposition was also written to draw down federal matching funds – so that California has the maximum amount of revenue to invest in the health of its people.
While the compromise spending plan provided $465 million for increased payments to Medi-Cal doctors and dentists, it doesn’t fulfill the full promise of Proposition 56. It is crucial to support the will of the voters and ensure that tobacco tax funds support the nearly 14 million Californians on Medi-Cal.
We should invest every penny of these voter-approved funds to make sure that Californians can see a doctor or dentist when their need is greatest.
California embraced the ACA and became an example to the nation of the success that we can achieve together. Now we must continue to lead by investing tobacco tax funds to ensure that insurance coverage is never separated from access to health care.