Action Items

  1. Support legislation to create a public option that competes directly with private health insurance plans.

  2. Introduce legislation that enables the state to use its formidable bargaining power to negotiate the price of drugs for all in-state prescriptions.

The pandemic has shown us that essential health care services, such as COVID-19 tests and vaccines, can be delivered without out-of-pocket payments. We can also appreciate the long-term cost savings of early intervention versus going to the emergency room at the last minute. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We live in the only first-world country that does not have universal healthcare. The profit margins of the large for-profit health insurance companies are obscene, especially when juxtaposed against the bureaucratic and financial nightmare faced by sick patients and their families. The Affordable Care Act prevented some of the worst abuses, such as the refusal of coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. Now, it's time to do more.

In the absence of universal healthcare, the most effective mechanism to prevent further exploitation is a public option. The Obama White House tried to include a public option in the Affordable Care Act but was stymied by deep-pocketed special interests. What couldn't be done at the federal level should be pioneered by our state. Accordingly, I will support legislation to create a public option that competes directly with private health insurance plans.

In the meantime, one big step is to reduce the number of uninsured in our district. At the federal level, Medicare does not have an income threshold but applies solely to folks who are at least 65 years of age. At the state level, Covered California is available to individuals making less than $47,520 per year or a family of four earning less than $97,200 per year. There is a middle segment of the population that makes more than the threshold but not enough to easily afford coverage. Some counties have a supplemental program to help these folks. For example, Santa Clara County's Primary Care Access Program is available to individuals who make less than $53,000 per year, and a proposal would double that income cap to $106,000 to reflect the Bay Area's high cost of living. I will work closely with health officials in both Alameda County and Santa Clara County to explore how the state can help these ongoing efforts to reduce the number of uninsured in the East and South Bay.