Longtime Leader of California’s Health Consumer Advocacy Coalition Tapped to Lead National Counterpart, Families USA

As Executive Director of Health Access California for 22 years, Anthony Wright led the organization to win dozens of health reforms, coverage expansions, patient protections, public health investments, cost containment efforts and more, including the biggest drop of the uninsured rate of all 50 states following the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, announces that its longtime Executive Director, Anthony Wright, will depart this summer to lead Families USA, the national, non-partisan voice for health care consumers, based in Washington, DC.

Under Wright’s leadership for 22 years, Health Access has achieved numerous victories for California’s health care consumers including expanding coverage to millions, protecting patients from industry abuses, containing health costs, advancing health equity and value, and reforming how our health system works for the benefit of consumers and California as a whole. This includes California’s work to prevent and restore budget cuts, and to pass, defend, implement, and improve the Affordable Care Act, which has resulted in the biggest drop of the uninsured rates of all 50 states.

Just in the past year, successes include the zeroing out of deductibles for over 650,000 in Covered California, the elimination of surprise medical bills for ambulances (building on previous legislation to prevent these out-of-network bills from doctors and ERs), the creation of an Office of Health Care Affordability with the nation’s most promising effort to contain health care costs, innovative efforts to lower prescription drug prices, new standards for quality and equity for health plans, and the full expansion of Medi-Cal to all income-eligible Californians regardless of immigration status.

“For the last two decades I have appreciated working with so many great colleagues, and coalition allies, and awed by them and the many Californians from across the state that have advocated and organized with us to fundamentally change our health system for the better. As a result of our collective work, millions more Californians now have health coverage and more financial assistance, breaking down the barriers of pre-existing conditions, age, income, and immigration status, that used to stand in the way accessing and affording needed care.” said Wright. “In my new role at the national level, my hope is to take the lessons learned from my California experience to continue to empower coalition allies, state and local organizations, and everyday Americans to be the most effective advocates on health policy, to make meaningful improvements in the health and financial security of all Americans. With the work to implement and improve upon the Affordable Care Act, we have proven that progress is possible—but we have much more to do to achieve true access, affordability, administrative ease, and equity in a health system that is too often costly, confusing, and culturally incompetent for so many.”

“Anthony Wright’s refusal to abandon an issue simply because it is difficult not only embodies the spirit of Health Access but has guided our pursuit of quality, affordable health care, allowing us to push the envelope of health care reform,” said Joan Pirkle-Smith, President of the Board of Directors for Health Access California. “The board of Health Access is so grateful for Anthony’s many years of service and takes pride in all he has helped the organization accomplish.”

“Anthony’s encyclopedic knowledge of health policy, his ability to discern the tug and pull of political decision making and his infectious laugh all contributed to his success and that of Health Access,” said Jim Crouch, President of the Board of Directors for Health Access Foundation.

Health Access will continue its work on key priorities this year, including bills on:

  • ensuring accurate and updated provider directories,
  • preventing medical debt from impacting credit scores,
  • providing oversight over private equity takeovers and health care consolidation in our system, and
  • opening up Covered California to all regardless of immigration status.

Health Access will also continue its administrative advocacy work for a strong cost growth target at the Office of Health Care Affordability, and for improved oversight over quality and equity at agencies like the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Health Care Services. This work around health equity at these and other agencies will also be a major and continued focus of the CA LGBTQ HHS Network, a vibrant and growing program of Health Access.

While Health Access California will not miss a step in its work on behalf of patients and the public, Wright leaves an extensive legacy. He has been listed in Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 most influential in California policy and politics from 2015-2023, often the only nonprofit/grassroots leader included of any issue area in entire state. The Sacramento Bee cited Wright as a top 2019 “Influencer,” and in a 2017 editorial, as a “hero” in the fight to defend the ACA: “Kudos, too, to advocates such as Health Access California’s Anthony Wright, who deserves a medal for the data he has mustered on behalf of vulnerable Californians.”

In order to ensure a strong and sustainable transition, Wright will continue in his role at Health Access into the summer. He will depart in July with the organization in a firm financial position and with a strong team in place, led by Deputy Director Amanda McAllister-Wallner, who will serve as Interim Executive Director while the organization undertakes a nationwide search process for a replacement. Before taking the role of Deputy Director of Health Access in 2021, McAllister-Wallner served for five years as head of the California LGBTQ Health and Human Service Network.


Press inquires can be directed to:
Rachel Linn Gish, rlinngish@health-access.org, (916) 532-2128