Personnel Profile: Anthony Wright

NAME: Anthony Wright
JOB TITLE: Executive director of Health Access California

Capitol Weekly: How did you get started with the Health Access Foundation?
Anthony Wright: I have done public-interest organizing and advocacy
throughout high school and college. I have worked on a range of issues. In
Washington, D.C., I worked on media and telecommunications issues for a
public-interest group. I was an intern for Vice President Al Gore in the
Clinton White House. For many years I was program director of New Jersey
Citizen Action, working on a range of issues, but particularly running the
health-care coalition of that state.

But, fundamentally, my career has been about following my wife. When she got
a Ph.D at Rutgers, I moved from D.C. to New Jersey and worked as the
organizing director at New Jersey Citizen Action. When my wife got a
position at UC Davis, I moved to California and managed to get a job running
the consumer-health coalition here.

CW: How did you first become passionate about public-interest advocacy?
AW: I grew up in the Bronx, but, through a nonprofit program, was able to
get a scholarship that allowed for some pretty amazing educational
opportunities. It also enabled me to see some of the inequities between
people, between parts of the city, and between access to opportunities that
were so stark, especially in New York. I think that sort of helped motivate
me to do this kind of work.

CW: What are some of the primary goals of your organization?
AW: The mission of health access is quality affordable health care for all.
That means working on the vision of universal coverage, but also, fighting
the issues of the moment, whether it is the cost of prescription drugs,
whether it is preventing severe budget cuts to health programs, whether it
is expanding coverage to children.

CW: What is the current legislation that you are following closely?
AW: This year the big focus is on the issue of medical debt. The irony of
our health-care system is that the uninsured pay more than anybody else for
medical care. Uninsured Americans pay more than anybody else in the world
for prescription drugs. An uninsured person going to a hospital will get
charged four, five or six times what an insurance company will pay for
exactly the same service. There are current proposals in the Legislature to
prevent this unfair pricing that leads to medical debt and personal
bankruptcy. Another big issue is the rise of these high deductible health
plans and other efforts to shift the cost and risk of health care from
insurers and employers on to patients and families. That is a trend that
threatens to unravel he health-care system that we all rely on.

CW: What is going on in your life right now apart from your work?
AW: My wife and I are expecting our first child. My wife is due in October.
We are preparing for parenthood, which is, among other things, involving new
interactions with the health-care system that is giving me more insight into
the issue.

CW: Are you prepared?
AW: Get back to me in November.

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