In Los Angeles, Zocalo Public Square is hosting a convening on, What Health Reform Means for the Economy. I’m one of the five doctors, advocates and academics who have wrote short pieces about health reform for their website (see below). And this Thursday, Zócalo invites the California HealthCare Foundation’s Marian Mulkey, Jan Spencley of San Diegans for Healthcare Coverage, Small Business Majority Founder and CEO John Arensmeyer, and Lucien Wulsin of the Insure the Uninsured Project to a panel starting at 7:30pm at NPR West.
Here’s my entry:
It’s about security
For our health care system, it’s the best of times, and the worst of times. Celebration over the new federal health reform law has been muted because of the crisis of the moment — our economic recession and resulting budget crisis. Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed health cuts that would not just imperil lives and harm our health care system, but would undermine our efforts at an economic recovery. The health cuts would be magnified due to the loss of federal matching funds, and would lead to the loss of over 42,000 jobs in both our health system and our wider communities. Most tax and revenue solutions would have less economic impact, and allow us to preserve these jobs along with basic health and human services.
Thankfully, the new federal law does provide some help. It prevents the state from making the worst of the cuts, and has already started providing new federal dollars in a variety of areas: tax credits to help small businesses cover their workers, $250 checks to seniors trying to afford prescription drugs, grant programs for community clinics, public health efforts, and medical professional training.
Over the next 10 years, California will see over $124 billion from the new law, much of it going directly to low- and moderate-income families to help them afford health care. This not only protects so many of our families from medical debt and bankruptcy, but provides funding and stability to our health system — which is one of our state’s major employers.
The new law will provide new energy for our economy. By preventing health insurers from denying care for pre-existing conditions, we allow a new generation of solo entrepreneurs to start their own businesses without worrying if they can’t get coverage.
At its core, the new law is less about health and more about providing economic security. It guarantees that families can get coverage without having to pay more than a percentage of their income in premiums. And it promises that such coverage will be there when we need it — without loopholes, rescission practices, or annual and lifetime caps that leave people with huge medical debt. This assurance will have profound benefits not just for our families and communities, but provides a stronger basis for economic growth moving forward.