Local lawmakers, public health officials and an executive from one of the nation’s largest community health clinics are rejoicing over the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 28 ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act.
The legislation, arguably President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, will insure an estimated 33 million people by 2014.
The Republican-led House of Representatives has vowed to repeal the legislation, which allows adult children under age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance policies and prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone who has a preexisting condition, among other things.
Venice Family Clinic Executive Director Elizabeth Benson Forer said the clinic’s patients will not lose the care that so many, who typically come from low-income backgrounds, might have lost if the law had been struck down.
“By affirming the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Supreme Court has ensured that hard-working Californians from all walks of life will have access to health insurance and health care services,” Benson Forer said. “The impact on our patients is extraordinary: over half of the 25,000 patients we see each year at Venice Family Clinic will have access to Medicaid in 2014.
“For many, they will now have the chance to receive regular, covered primary care for the first time in their lives.”
Los Angeles County Director of Health Services Mitchell Katz said the ruling would bring needed health coverage to a very large swath of the county’s population.
“As a result of (the) decision by the (U.S.) Supreme Court to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, over 80 percent of the 2.2 million people who are currently uninsured in Los Angeles County stand to gain access to affordable insurance coverage,” Katz said in a statement.
Accoring to the county health office, over half of the county’s uninsured residents are eligible to receive coverage through Medi-Cal in 2014.
“This coverage will be contingent on the state of California’s participation in the Medicaid expansion component of the legislation,” Katz explained. “In anticipation of this expansion of Medicaid, the Department of Health Services has already enrolled over 200,000 low-income county residents into Healthy Way L.A., the county’s coverage program known as the ‘Bridge to Reform.’”
Third District County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes Venice, joined Katz and others in applauding the high court’s ruling.
“(The) decision by the Supreme Court affirms the principle that access to affordable, quality health care is a right, not a privilege. It’s high time in our nation that every man, woman and child have the opportunity to meet their health care needs,” said the supervisor.
“For the last two years, Los Angeles has been preparing to transition to health care under the Affordable Care Act. With the Supreme Court decision behind us, we can now turn our attention to full implementation of the law in 2014.”
Benson Forer said the economic impact on residents without health insurance could have become more acute had the court struck down the health care law.
“People who don’t have money to pay for health care can often end up being broke,” she noted. “So they’d be at risk for ongoing financial harm as long as they had no health insurance.”
David Hadley, president of the Beach Cities Republican Club, expressed disappointment with the ruling. Like many conservative voices who weighed in after the court’s decision, Hadley took issue with the deciding vote cast by Chief Justice John Roberts.
“It was a political vote,” he asserted.
Reminded that both political parties have called prior justice votes political when a ruling did not favor their political arguments or have accused jurists of being “activist judges,” Hadley said he thought Roberts was seeking a result that was not consistent with conservative legal interpretations.
“It was not a conservative ruling in my opinion,” said Hadley, whose organization represents Republicans in the South Bay. “I can’t see inside Roberts’ personal motivations, but it seems clear to me that he was trying to reach some predetermined outcome.”
County health authorities say the Affordable Care Act will soon allow many of the uninsured to buy their own health insurance.
“In addition to those who will be newly eligible for Medi-Cal, three-quarters of a million additional county residents will be able to purchase affordable health insurance through the state’s health insurance exchange, take control of their health, and reduce pressure on our strained county-run health care system,” Katz said.
Venice Family Clinic Medical Director Karen Lamp said she is “absolutley thrilled” with the ruling on the Affordable Care Act. “I see the suffering of people who are uninsured,” said Lamp, who has worked at the clinic for 24 years. “Parents who come here often have to make decisions on who gets the health care each day because it’s so limited.
“This an opportunity for literally millions of Californians to finally get health insurance and not have to live with the insecurity of whether they can see a doctor or not,” the medical director added. “So for me and my patients, I think that it’s a net benefit.”
Denise Horton, 50, began coming to the clinic in 2008. Being able to see the same doctor is important to her, and at Venice Family Clinic she is able to see the same health provider. “I really love that because when you have the same doctor they can learn about your (medical) history and you can have a relationship with that doctor,” she said.
Hadley said that even though he opposes the health care law, the nation still needs to continue to maintain its commitment to seniors through Medicare. He also favors “high risk pools” for those with preexisting conditions, one of the most popular categories of the Affordable Care Act.
“Obamacare will not stand the test of time,” Hadley predicted.
Lamp has witnessed firsthand the risks of going without health care and insurance.
“Everyday we see people who delay getting care and their simple conditions can turn into complicated conditions,” the doctor said. “For instance, diabetics without access to care can end up going on dialysis or even blind.”
Horton is a patient who admittedly waited until she felt numbness in her left side when she came to the clinic because she does not have health insurance. Lamp said she was very fortunate that she was able to be treated without major complications.
“Things could have gotten progressively worse,” she said.
Benson Forer said the population that the clinic serves will benefit greatly from the Supreme Court ruling.
“With seven million uninsured residents in California and 2.7 million people in Los Angeles County alone with no health insurance, the court’s decision means California can move forward with fully implementing the Affordable Care Act and providing a health care system that truly works for all Californians,” she said. “We thank President Obama for his leadership on this issue and applaud the Supreme Court for upholding the fact that health care is not a political or social issue — it’s a basic human right.”
On July 11, nurses, physicians, and health care activists arrived in Santa Monica, as part of a three-week tour of California cities sponsored by the California Nurses Association.
“The court decision has not ended the health care emergency for far too many in our communities,” said Zenei Cortez, a registered nurse and co-president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.
The health care professionals conducted free screenings and held a town hall on health care. ¤