With the announcement of the Health Care for America Now! campaign to push for national reform with a new President and a new Congress at the beginning of 2009, some may wonder about California’s role in this national effort.
First things first: this is no way supplants or suggests a lack of commitment to the ongoing, multiple-year effort for state-based reform. That effort is ongoing, and will be highly coordinated with this new federal effort. We think there is an opportunities for health reform at both the state and federal levels in 2009. We simply think the federal government should be a partner and a leader for health reform, rather than an obstacle, which has been its position for several years.
More than that, California can and should be a leader in influencing the national debate. And it is well equipped to do so. The two locations for launch events tell the tale:
* No state feels more urgency for health reform than California. One of our events is in front of Los Angeles County Hospital spotlighted the city as “ground zero” for the health care crisis nationally, with closing emergency rooms and one of the highest rates of uninsured in the nation. Nobody needs health reform more than Californians facing a broken health system.
* No state will have a bigger voice in the debate, given our sizable and powerful Congressional delegation, led by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and key committee chairmen like Reps. George Miller, Pete Stark, Henry Waxman, and other leaders.
* No state has more experience considering and debating the various options for health reform over the last five years than California, at the state and even local level. Our event in front of City Hall in San Francisco spotlighted a city that not only hosts the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, but that also shows health reform is possible—and meets many of the principles advanced by consumer advocates. The city last week just celebrated the one-year anniversary of the implementation of their universal healthcare program, Healthy San Francisco.
California has no choice but to be a leader in the national effort. And an important part of that is leading by example, by moving state-based reforms on a parallel track with the national conversation.