ITUP is on the Covered California 23-city bus tour to mark the start of this year’s open enrollment. We started at 6:45 from the Covered California headquarters, then to the Capitol Steps, Petaluma Health Center, Martin Luther King Memorial in San Francisco and Yerba Buena High School in San Jose, and slept over night in Gilroy. Today, we head for Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield – a great way to celebrate Veteran’s Day.
3.4 million Californians were covered in year 1 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That’s cut our state’s uninsured rate in half in just 12 months. This is what I signed on for as a young lawyer forty years ago. One of my early clients was a Vietnam vet who had been unemployed and just got a full time job in Boston, MA. His employer did not offer coverage, and he got a notice that he was losing Medicaid because he was working. I told him, “This must be a mistake, we cannot have a stupid system like that in America where you get a job and lose your coverage. I’ll try to get that taken care of.” After poring over the law books, I had to tell him that this was in fact the crazy system we had, and I’d try to get it fixed.” He said, “Don’t worry about me. I can get my care at the local VA. It’s coverage for my wife and kids that I’m really worried about.” Being fresh out of law school, I thought that might take a few months for legislators and program administrators to repair this unjust omission.
Here we are 40 years later. Massachusetts finally fixed that problem in 2006 with its historic RomneyCare legislation. The nation passed and President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and California is “all in.”
With all the frustration of the first year’s rollout, let’s remember, 1) its taken 100 years to get here, starting with the leadership of President Teddy Roosevelt, 2) California has already covered nearly 3.5 million in its first year, and 3) there are many stories of returning veterans and their families trying to get coverage and basic health care, just like my early experience. We have a lot to appreciate and reflect on in the leadership of American’s veterans as we all face the future together.
Thank you Covered California. We’re in!
Lucien Wulsin, ITUP, 11/11/14