By Juan Calvillo
California Congresswoman Judy Chu and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi held a discussion at East Los Angeles College last Tuesday entirely focused on health care. ELAC students and faculty from the Nursing Department were invited to the not widely known event. The emphasis was on the Affordable Care Act, public charge and reducing the prices of prescription drugs. Chu and Pelosi were joined in the discussion by Supervisor Hilda Solis, Lousie McCarthy, CEO of Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, and Berenice Constant, vice president of communications at AltaMed.
This discussion was one of over one hundred discussions being held in a series called “Speaker In The House” across the United States. Chu, a member of the “Ways and Means” committee, and Pelosi said that each of these discussions will focus on health care specifically. Pelosi added that the purpose of such events was to find ways to improve health care, expand it and give access to it to as many Americans as possible. “This is a right, it is not a privilege for the few,” Pelosi said about health care. She also gave credit not to politics but to the grassroots effort people across the United States put on to protect the ACA. She said that when it came time for people to call in and demand the ACA’s protection, so many calls were logged that the switch board for them was overwhelmed.
Solis spoke briefly of the benefits that have come from the ACA in LA county. She said that over a million people were serviced thanks to the ACA, and that an additional 400,000 through Covered California, adding that the benefits of having the ACA allowed for the county to create “My Health LA,” a program that helps undocumented people get the attention they need. McCarthy talked to the students and faculty present saying that once they left ELAC, her company would really like to look at them for hiring purposes. She also said that providing grassroots movements was key in helping keep the ACA strong, and that she as well as others have talked about their own personal experiences in health care. Pelosi echoed these sentiments saying that real stories were key in keeping the ACA alive.
Pelosi said that health care is very important in people’s lives and that fighting for the protection of the ACA is paramount, specifically fighting the Trump administration’s attempts to repeal the ACA in court. Pelosi said that taking down the costs of health care was important and that at the moment, the biggest concern is in the costs of prescription drugs. Pelosi believes that President Donald Trump is being upfront on trying to find a way to lower these costs for the American people. She also said that there were issues that were being addressed within the ACA and that proposals were being made to fix the issues. Pelosi also said that any ideas would be welcomed on what was needed.
Chu said that prescription drugs were one of the issues that needs addressing. She said that in the “Ways and Means” committee just passed a bill to address prescription drug price increases. “We just passed out a transparency bill. Saying that if a pharmaceutical company wants to raise the rate of their drug, let’s say over three years by 26%, then they have to justify it to the federal government,” Chu said. Chu and Pelosi also talked about the executive order to allow for “Junk Plans” to be added as health plans. This was another situation that is being addressed. Chu said that “Junk Plans” don’t really cover anything near to what the ACA covers, and Pelosi said, “Beware of these ‘Junk Plans’ because that’s exactly what they are, junk.
The panel then addressed the recent talk of changes to public charge that the Trump administration has proposed. As of now, the public charge rule refers to people who are dependent, monetarily or long term care-wise, on the government. The new proposal would add that if an immigrant wants to change their status or apply for a visa, they must prove that they won’t become a public charge. The proposal says that for the change to be made, they must also prove they haven’t received any help as a public charge.
Chu said that the situation is truly dire. She said that many people have not signed up for the services that they may need and that some of these people have a situation where they have an affected status but children who are legal citizens. Chu said if there was one thing that people should take away from the panel it would be the knowledge that they have the right to sign up.“This rule has not been in place. We don’t want to deprive people of their ability to get health care when they need it.” She said she has introduced the “No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act” in response to the situation. McCarthy added that some immigration lawyers have told their clients to not sign up for the basic things they need, or to cancel them outright. She said that people in education and the medical fields have the trust of those who come to them asking about the situation. McCarthy said these places have the chance to educate people and debunk the rumors on the current situation of public charge.
To close out the event the panel talked briefly about the importance of the upcoming census as it pertains to federal funding for the people in the U.S. Pelosi said that they are looking into the proposed citizenship question that has been said might be added on the census questionnaire and its true purpose. She encouraged the use of community based groups that could help correctly fill out the census paperwork saying that the census was to the population of the country not specifically the number of citizens.