Ten years ago, today I witnessed the passing of the biggest piece of legislation that I have ever been a part of in my career as a public health advocate: the signing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While by no means a perfect bill, it did set off a decade of efforts that I and my fellow advocates were able to engage in that has drastically changed the landscape of healthcare across the United States and here in California.
Today in California over 14 million(1) have access to healthcare either through Covered California or Medi-Cal. Thousands more have access to healthcare through county programs like My Health LA in LA County. Services are being offered through unique and intersectional ways as a result of county Whole Person Care efforts. Countless policies and regulations have been, or are set to be, implemented that streamline how individuals obtain, utilize and retain their healthcare coverage. New and state of the art clinics and hospitals have been built to treat our most vulnerable communities. All this has led to cost savings and reduced health disparities (see the recent blog article from the California Health Care Foundation.
I am by no means saying that our healthcare system is perfect. The challenges we face today with the COVID-19 epidemic have illuminated this, but just imagine where we would be if not for the Affordable Care Act. Would we be in a worse situation with nearly 3 million Californians who would have been uninsured or the 16.8 million that may have been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions?(2) In South Los Angeles, would we have had the explosion of clinics and school–based health centers or the reopening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital? These are health centers where staff is not just diligently addressing this pandemic but meeting the needs of residents facing a host of different healthcare needs. I can’t be certain that these things wouldn’t have come to pass regardless of the ACA, knowing how amazing California can be. But I know the ACA created a catalyst that propelled our public health advocates, community leaders, and decisionmakers down a path to ensure we would not be more devastated as our world continues to be affected by COVID-19.
On March 23, 2010, I was simply a year into my position as a Policy Director at Community Health Councils. Never did I imagine that I would be able to share a retrospective on such a key piece of legislation. Never did I imagine that I would be an advocate in a time of such strain. What I do know today is that we would be in a much worse position to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic if not for the Affordable Care Act.
Amongst public health advocates, we have always known that our work is not done. The ACA was the beginning, and everything done to date has made it better but there is still more to do. Today our communities need us to continue to stay strong, work harder to improve our healthcare system, and make sure our most vulnerable populations are taken care of as we combat COVID-19 and other healthcare challenges they face.
Sonya Vasquez, MSW
Community Health Councils
Chief Transformation Officer
#ACA10CA #valueCHCs #Fight4OurHealth #SaferAtHome