HOLTVILLEâ€“ California Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez held a town hall forum on the impending Affordable Care Act at the Barbara Worth Country Club to a full room, many using interpreting devices to understand what was said in Spanish.
Ruth Montenegro facilitated the panel which also included Imperial County Public Health Director Robin Hodgkin and Peggy Price, Director of Imperial County Department of Social Services.
Montenegro asked questions to the panel on how the Affordable Care Act (AFA) benefits the Imperial Valley and about its implementation.
Perez told the crowd that besides being an historic piece of legislature, it is a necessity to support and help the Valley. Six million individuals will be added to the health care system in California, which is 60 to 70 thousand Imperial Valley residents.
For those on limited incomes or with large families, Covered California, the name of the exchange for California, will offer subsidies and tax credits that will help with co-payments.
The Act also expands Medicare January first to one million more citizens.
Robin Hodgkin explained to the room that this act will change how health care is delivered. Now all preventative medicine will be covered such as flu shots, vaccines, mammograms, and prostrate examinations. Those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes will no longer be stopped from obtaining health care.
Price said that 45,000 people in the valley receive Medi-Cal and the county is expecting 20,000 more after October 1st, the first day to sign up. â€œThe question now is, â€˜What else are you eligible for?â€™â€ asked Price.
Hodgkin said that everyone on Medi-Cal will have a health plan with an assigned physician. Included will be transportation to clinics, and clinics will expand their hours and be open on weekends.Â â€œAccess, it is now available.
Price said it is a changing culture, from struggling, to a culture of coverage. â€No longer will they ask, â€˜Are you elgible?â€™ The new culture is,â€ what all can we sign you up for?â€
This brought a round of applause from the room.
The last 45 minutes the panel answered questions from the audience. Although favorable to the changes, frustration was in many questions since the panel couldnâ€™t answer specific questions, such as cost and if co-payments would now be covered.
Perez explained that it was best to get on the many websites that have been set up and use the calculator to find out individual payments since pay scale depended on family income and number of children.
Hodgkin admitted that the websites change daily as more information is added and taken away and some of the calculators had glitches.Â She reminded everyone this was still early, they were talking to everyone to give them a heads up.
According to Hodgkin, the United States has the finest health care in the world, people travel from the four corners to be treated here, yet our life span is less than that of South Korea and that needs to change.
With Medi-Cal expanding and the implementation of AFA, the panel admitted that millions will still not be covered. Perez said about 2 million of those are documented and 1 million undocumented people.Â He said he had a bill that he introduced last year that would put together a trust fund employers would fund knowing employers need healthy workers. Perez said Western Growers and the California Farm Bureau are behind his bill, he just needs to get restaurant owners and other industry leaders to support the bill.
Tom Henderson, Executive Director of the Imperial County Medical Society, spoke during the Q & A saying that January 1st the medically insured numbers will double, yet the numbers of available doctors will not double that day.
Perez agreed that more doctors in rural areas are needed. Perez also has a bill (AB 1288) that will fast track licensing of young doctors that agree to work in rural areas.