Love it or hate it, here it comes. Health-care advocates held a series of events throughout California on Thursday to celebrate the third anniversary of Congress' passage of the Affordable Care Act and to urge state officials to move quickly in preparing for its implementation in January.
"We think this is important to California's future, as transformative, as the building of the railroad or the establishment of the University of California," Anthony Wright, director of Health Access, said of Obamacare. "We need to embrace it fully and urgently."
Federal health-care reform cleared its final congressional hurdle and was sent to President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Hotly contested, the massive reform measure was designed to overhaul health insurance in a way that ensures that nearly all Americans purchase at least a basic level of medical coverage or pay a penalty.
Health Access, a nonprofit group supporting Obamacare, released a report Thursday that concluded millions of Californians already have benefited from consumer protections, subsidized care, business tax credits, or changes in insurance coverage sparked by the Affordable Care Act.
More than a million Californians have been able to obtain coverage they previously could not get, the report said, including these residents:
More than a half-million served by new programs for people with low incomes.
More than 21,000 people who had been denied insurance because of an existing health problem.
More than 435,000 young adults who now can receive coverage until age 26 through their parents' insurance plan.
Wright and other health-care advocates urged the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to reach agreement quickly on expanding California's Medi-Cal program and on laying the groundwork for the health-care overhaul's implementation on Jan. 1.
"We're proud of what California has done," Wright said. "But there's a lot more work to do."
While health-care advocates celebrated Thursday with a statewide telephone conference call and media events in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Fresno, critics of Obamacare found no reason to cheer.
"I think we're headed toward a health-care Armageddon," said Assemblyman Dan Logue, a Marysville Republican who serves as vice chairman of the Assembly Health Committee. "I think it's going to be a disaster."
Californians are likely to see costs rise and availability fall as Obamacare expands the number of people eligible for health-care without increasing the number of doctors to serve them, Logue said.
"You're going to have a massive rationing of health care," he said. "Everyone is going to have health insurance, but no one is going to have health care."
PHOTO CREDIT: Dr. Sonia Nagda displays a pin supporting the Affordable Care Act as she gathers with other health care professionals in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, March 26, 2012. Charles Dharapak / AP Photo file, 2012