Congratulations, Speaker-elect Perez!

Health Access California congratulates John Perez on winning the unanimous support of the Democratic caucus to become the next Speaker of the California Assembly.

John Perez has been known to us for many years. While the many media accounts took note of his roots in the labor movement, we first met John when he was appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer in 1997 to serve as a consumer representative on the Managed Care Advisory Task Force. Then-Governor Pete Wilson created the Managed Care task force as a means of thwarting the campaign for the HMO Patient Bill of Rights, sponsored by Health Access California.

John Perez was a forceful voice for consumers during the months of meetings of the managed care taskforce. We are pleased to note that when Governor Gray Davis signed the HMO Patient Bill of Rights in 1999, it was an even stronger package than the original proposal—in part because of the willingness of a broad range of consumer advocates to speak up for even stronger reforms of HMOs.

We also know John Perez because he led the Stonewall Democratic Club in Los Angeles along with Anne Marie Staas Niedorf. Health Access California was one of the many beneficiaries of Anne Marie’s long history of activism: she hosted more than one house party devoted to health care, including the HMO Patient Bill of Rights. We are saddened to report that Anne Marie finally lost her long battle with her various ailments last month. May she rest in peace.

John Perez has also served on the President’s Council on HIV and AIDS as well as on the board of AIDS Project Los Angeles, giving him insight into a key health issue that shows many of the flaws in our health care system.

And we would be remiss if we did not note that John was political director of UFCW during the very difficult grocery workers strike in Los Angeles in 2003, a strike over health benefits that helped to set the political context for the fight for an employer mandate in SB2(Burton)/Proposition 72 of 2003 and 2004–which in turn led to the passage of Healthy San Francisco and the employer reponsibility elements of proposed state and national health reforms. Health Access California is proud to have worked with the California Labor Federation and the California Medical Association on that pivotal campaign that restarted the health reform conversation in our state, and eventually nationally.

We greatly look forward to working with Speaker-elect Perez in his new role, which will include the massive amount of work to implement federal health reform at the California level.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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