The Governor also announced a new website http://www.healthcare.ca.gov/ which is intended to serve as a resource for health reform in California. (He did not mention it but this was one of the primary uses to which California put its grant for consumer assistance along with updating the HMOHELP line and providing the Office of Patient Advocate better capacity for social media.)
On Friday, Health Access board members and staff were well represented at a signing ceremony in Los Angeles at the California Endowment. Ellen Wu from CPEHN, Joan Pirkle Smith from ADA, Mike Russo from CalPIRG were present, as was former Health Access Foundation policy committee chair and UCLA School of Public Health professor Rick Brown. Along with Beth Capell and Nancy Gomez of Health Access, we were there to watch Governor Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate Health Chair Elaine Alquist and others speak about the accomplishment.
Governor Schwarzenegger said: “Today quality, affordable health care is not a privilege, but a necessity for every one of us.”
He spoke about a double economic crisis—one facing families who suffer bankruptcy because of medical debt and a second facing emergency rooms with tens of millions of dollars of unpaid debt. And a more crisis eight million individuals are uninsured and children can’t get health care because of a pre-existing condition. The Governor also spoke about how the work we did in California became the model for the national bill. He said he had learned the heard way that what is perfect for one is disastrous for another, how what is perfect for insurers has consumers up in arms.
Assembly Speaker John Perez thanked the Governor and President Obama (nice touch!) for making health reform a reality. California is a beacon of hope for the rest of the country, by creating a consumer-friendly marketplace providing quality, affordable coverage.
Senate Health Committee Chair Elaine Alquist spoke of what a momentous day this was for California, for its people and its small businesses. She, like Speaker Perez, thanked the Governor for his great courage. Then she turned to the Governor and said “today you are my action hero”. She also spoke about how her Greek immigrant father moved to California out of hope of a better life and how the exchange legislation would provide that hope, the hope that there would be real access to affordably priced health care.
Bruce Bodaken, the CEO of Blue Shield then said that the Governor and the Legislature had shown great courage and vision and demonstrated that California can lead again. In Blue Shield’s view, a strong exchange is long overdue and that they were committed to competing on price, product and service rather than health status. Small businesses and individuals will now have the same option as large businesses. The exchange will provide real options, real choices. The existing market is not the best value for those who need it the most.
There were several other speakers, including a small business owner from Small Business Majority as well as Fernando Torres-Gil and Cynthia Telles, both of the Endowment board.
It was all over in an hour—and then the Governor and the Speaker went back to Sacramento to Big Five to begin closing down the budget.
Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.