We at Health Access California are shocked and deeply saddened by the passing of Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, a friend and former Assemblymember and chair of the Assembly Health Committee. A champion on health care and so much more, she was smart and savvy, wonky and wise, principled and pragmatic. She was our author for many righteous fights for coverage expansion and consumer protection, including the Hospital Fair Pricing Act, which saved uninsured and uninsured patients from having to pay inflated hospital charges multiple times what insurers or Medicare pay.
She was hit by a car when walking her beloved dog Maggie, and appropriately rushed to Highland, the county hospital she championed. She had big plans and had so much more to do, What a tragic, tragic loss.
I am reeling, but just one accomplishment to highlight among many that should go in her obit, is that legislation she authored helped ensure the passage of the ACA. A relatively modest bill that forced insurers to list the reasons that they denied people with “pre-existing conditions” also included a disclosure to notify patients about rate hikes a month in advance. Her bill was the reason that in early 2010, policyholders in CA were getting notices of a 39% rate increase from Anthem Blue Cross. Some called the LA Times, which put it on the front page–at exactly the time when the ACA was stalled in Congress after a tough election loss in Massachusetts. President Obama seized on that headline as the fodder to reinvigorate the effort for health reform, and created the momentum for its final passage.
So while #WilmaChan won important pieces of legislation, even when she didn’t, she laid the groundwork for progress in the future. She passed a bill to expand Medi-Cal to all children, regardless of immigration status–back in 2006! While vetoed, it laid groundwork for winning in 2016. She continued her championing of health justice through her time in the legislature and then as a County Supervisor. In the interim between elected positions, it’s telling of her passion and principles that she went to work for Children Now. We were honored to have her on the Health Access California board in that capacity.
A health care hero and one of my favorite legislators, Supervisor Wilma Chan made a difference in so many ways, and she will be sorely, sorely missed. She always had big plans and would have done so much more, and we are all worse off because of her passing.