My hope for health care in 2019

Hundreds of people advocating for improved health care rally outside San Francisco City Hall, 2017. (Photo: Kim Wilson, via Shutterstock)

As a physician in California, I am so grateful to see preserving people’s access to health care at the top of our state’s New Year’s resolution list. Although a federal judge in Texas has ruled the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional (in a state where five million people could be directly affected, no less), California is promising to fight back.

Our own Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the decision an “assault… on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA for health care.”

I see countless patients whose access to critical medical attention would be non-existent if it weren’t for the ACA.

Also recently, we saw devastating new statistics from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families about the substantial growth of uninsured children over the past three years. Alarmingly, the number of uninsured children in the United States increased last year for the first time since those numbers have been tracked!

While this is disheartening, I still have hope. The report from Georgetown also shows California’s rate of uninsured children remains below the national average, and was not found to have increased significantly between 2016 and 2017. This may be thanks, in part, to California’s push to ensure ALL children, regardless of immigration status, have access to health care.

I am also encouraged by health care progress in several other states’ where people voted in the recent midterm elections to expand Medicaid, even in several known-conservative states. This tells me that voters are sending a signal to Washington that we need the ACA. As a doctor, I see countless patients whose access to critical medical attention would be non-existent if it weren’t for the ACA.

I believe that here in California, our signal to Washington can be even stronger in the coming year – especially in light of the recent ruling. We have an opportunity to open access to health care even wider, including to our undocumented friends and neighbors.

Undocumented Californians contribute billions of dollars to California’s economy, yet more than a million lack access to affordable health care coverage. If you don’t think this is an issue that affects you – you’re wrong. Access to preventive and affordable care means more kids at school, people at work, and fewer community members relying on costly emergency rooms.

Anyone – at anytime – is at risk of needing to see a doctor because you never know what’s going to happen. Illnesses and accidents do not discriminate, and neither should access to health care.

These past two years have been nothing short of health care chaos, with various policy and legal attempts to undo all the benefits of the ACA. Some of these attempts have even included alleged “promises” to improve health care and increase wealth. In reality, there has yet to be a plan that would improve the health or wealth of Californians and the people of our nation.

It’s clear that this conversation is all too often NOT about what’s best for health care. No, it’s more about how our access to health care can be held hostage by certain individuals who don’t understand – or don’t care – about the affects this has on all of us.

As a physician of 15 years, I practice medicine so I can help individuals live their healthiest life possible. Access to affordable health care should never be in question. It should be a fundamental right for everyone. Perhaps with new leadership in both Washington, D.C. and California, 2019 may be our biggest health care opportunity yet.

Dr. Vivi Stafford, a general practitioner,  graduated from the University Of Minnesota Medical School and has worked in Los Angeles County, Kings County and Fresno County. She has an Executive Master’s Degree in Health Administration.

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