On Tuesday, Tom Price, the newly confirmed secretary of Health and Human Services, applauded the long-awaited House Republican replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act — despite the fact that the American Medical Association, the chief medical officer of Medicaid, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Nurses Association and many others have quickly and publicly opposed the legislation.
Price, a retired orthopedic surgeon and Republican from Georgia, has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, voted against expansion of children’s insurance, endorsed the privatization of Medicare, supported defunding of Planned Parenthood and advocated for the withdrawal of governmental protections of services for transgender people.
I want to make something very clear. The health professionals of this community are not Price, and many, many of us do not support any of the aforementioned policies. In fact, in the wake of the recent election, here in Sonoma County we have formed an advocacy group of health professionals with a progressive agenda that is aimed at obstructing the current Republican administration’s plans and improving patient care and access. We include more than 150 local physicians, nurse practitioners, midwives, nurses, acupuncturists, therapists, mental health providers and more who provide services in every health system in this county.
We are calling ourselves Health Professionals for Equality and Community Empowerment (H-PEACE), and as we do when we serve our patients every day in the clinics and hospitals and medical practices all over Sonoma County, we are here to serve you. We believe that health is a human right — that everyone should have access to health care. That it is our responsibility to put patients first.
As reported by The Press Democrat on Jan. 13, there will be significant local impacts if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. Sonoma County alone will suffer the loss of 2,000 jobs, an economic loss of $200 million and 35,000 Sonoma County residents will lose health insurance. These are our patients, our friends, our neighbors.
A contingent of H-PEACE members attended Rep. Mike Thompson’s Town Hall on Feb. 25 to advocate for expansion (rather than repealing) of the Affordable Care Act. While we recognize that the Affordable Care Act is imperfect, it has also insured 20-plus million people nationwide, done away with pre-existing condition clauses, provided free preventive services (birth control, pap smears, colon cancer screening), allowed children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 and allowed funding for innovative ways to fund and provide health care. Thompson is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act and encouraged us over and over again to fight the repeal; the crowd at the town hall clearly agreed. And we will.
But we can do more. In the wake of current events and uncertainty about what will happen with the Affordable Care Act, California should continue to distinguish itself as a leader in health care. It’s time to move our state toward a Medicare for al/single payer/universal health care system that would include coverage for all Californians. This process is underway with the recent introduction of Sen. Ricardo Lara’s bill for single payer health care in California, SB 562. It’s still early, but this is terribly exciting. This may be the opportunity that many of us have been waiting for — a real lemonade-from-lemons moment to reshape health care.