By Daniel Gross and John Ohanian
As a new administration is being installed in Washington, D.C., many are wondering what changes we can expect in the first 100 days. As organizations on the front lines helping people access health care services in the San Diego region, we share the public’s uncertainty about what’s in store for the future.
While there are countless issues facing California and our country, one policy priority must remain following the leadership transition: assurance that Californians will continue to have access to quality, affordable health care coverage.
Over the last several years, California has led the way and achieved tremendous gains in access to health care, increasing coverage to 3.7 million children, seniors and working families through Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid. It’s a remarkable success story.
Health care reform allowed more than 240,000 individuals in San Diego County to receive access to critical health care services. 2-1-1 San Diego sees firsthand the improvements in health care access and utilization since the Affordable Care Act. Every day, 2-1-1 screens callers for insurance, provides Covered California and Medi-Cal enrollment assistance, and supports the most vulnerable patients in navigating the complex health care system. We’ve seen an unprecedented reduction in uninsured callers, an increase in access to preventive and primary care, and positive impacts on related social determinants of health.
Funding available from Washington, D.C. has helped Sharp HealthCare facilities and physicians provide care to thousands more patients who have received coverage through the Affordable Care Act. We and other health care systems in the region have made major commitments to new facilities, expanded programs and more accessible care.
For children, the expansion of coverage for medical, dental and vision services has made an enormous difference in the lives of thousands of San Diego families. Children in our community now have access to important immunizations and screening tests that previously weren’t available. Fewer children are drawn away from school because of preventable illnesses and more time is spent in classrooms learning. While kids grow and develop, it’s important to identify and treat chronic conditions that may impact their long-term health, and expanded coverage gives parents peace of mind.
For members of working-class families, coverage can help maintain or improve overall health and leads to less reliance on hospital emergency rooms, which benefits all of us. Coverage comes with important benefits like access to cancer and diabetes screenings and cholesterol checks. Imagine the reality for patients without coverage who face chronic conditions or require access to specialized care. It costs significantly more to address conditions after the fact instead of proactively.
We also want to remind the community that access to preventative care means a healthier community, limiting absenteeism and leading to a more productive workforce. When you’re healthy, you don’t miss work. When individuals aren’t able to get regular checks up, they often face more serious conditions, and expensive medical bills, down the road.
In short, the efforts to expand access to health care coverage have greatly benefited California and the San Diego community. When decision-makers are considering policy options, our hope is coverage will remain a centerpiece, given its tremendous impact to our community and the future prosperity of the Golden State. We look forward to working with our local elected leaders and community partners to ensure California continues to provide health care coverage to our region’s children, seniors and working families.
—Daniel L. Gross is executive vice president of Sharp Healthcare and John Ohanian is president & CEO of 2-1-1 San Diego.