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Senator Toni Atkins Speaks

A Note from Senator Toni Atkins- Co sponsor of The Healthy California Act SB562

Friday, March 24, was a good day for California. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan informed the president that he didn’t have the votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with something that would have been terrible for our state, and the bill was effectively dead.

For now.

That same day – as the Senate Health Committee (I’m privileged to be a member) held an informational hearing at San Diego State University on how the ACA has benefitted California and how Ryan’s bill would impact our state – we called what happened in Washington, D.C., a “pause.”

Image: With Dr. Ed Hernandez, chairman of the Senate Health Committee at a March 24th informational hearing on healthcare in San Diego.

The Republicans will likely be back with another attempt to repeal the ACA, and we’ll have to be ready. There are also things the president can do to reduce funding for healthcare in California that don’t require legislation. We must continue to be vigilant.

The ACA isn’t perfect, and it’s had some problems in other states where insurance companies have pulled out of healthcare exchanges, but on balance, it’s been a success story in California. Thanks to the ACA, roughly 5 million more of our residents have obtained health insurance – either through the Covered Calfornia healthcare exchange or through the ACA-provided expansion of Medi-Cal.

In San Diego County, more than 350,000 people have obtained health coverage through Covered California subsidies or expanded Medi-Cal. That’s approximately 11 percent of our county’s population added to the ranks of the insured in the last few years.

Statewide, our uninsured rate has fallen to a record-low 7.1 percent. The ACA has been good for our residents, and we need to protect and defend it.

But as we do, we’re going to do the work to improve upon it. My goal is to ensure that everyone in California has access to quality healthcare. As I said March 25th at Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s healthcare town-hall meeting at UCSD, the ACA is a floor, not a ceiling.

With my colleague Senator Ricardo Lara, I have introduced SB 562, the Healthy California Act. The bill would create a single-payer, universal healthcare system in California. What that means is that the state serves as everyone’s insurer – the state pays the providers for medical services.

In addition to providing universal coverage, the goal is to reduce overall healthcare costs as we streamline the system. I think we can do it.

Make no mistake, this will take a lot of hard work, and it will take time. The idea behind single-payer is simple, but the healthcare system is complex. There are many stakeholders, and they’ll all have valuable input to provide. We’ll listen to everyone and create the system that works the best.

I believe healthcare is a right. Just as we have a right to a basic education, or to be protected by police officers and firefighters, we have the right to preventative medical care.

Healthy Californians will create a healthy and prosperous California. I’m going to work hard and do my part to help make it happen.