Will President Obama Defend Healthcare Reform?
By Jim Mangia and Dave Regan
Estela Chavez is like many mothers in California. Her two kids want new bikes and the latest Xbox
video game. But what they need is healthcare.
She works more than 60 hours a week at two different jobs, but even so there is barely enough
money for bare necessities. For healthcare for her two children she depends on a statewide
program that covers preventive care for children.
“My son has autism and without healthcare assistance he has no access to a doctor,” Estela said
recently. “I could never afford the medication and behavioral health care he needs to function
without this program.”
While President Obama and Congress are jockeying over the federal budget in Washington, D.C.
people like Estela and her family hang in the balance.
President Obama is talking about closing corporate loopholes, taxing private jets and requiring
the upper echelon of society to pay its fair share, but he is also proposing significant cuts to
programs like Medicaid that if enacted would eliminate basic healthcare for kids. Estela’s
children depend on Medi-Cal, the California Medicaid program for children.
Funding for our nation’s healthcare safety net is most in danger in the recent round of hyperbolic
debate. Republicans are wielding a sledgehammer – demanding to gut the program and move on.
President Obama can stand up for healthcare funding for millions of children and people with
disabilities while protecting the success of his own historic healthcare law passed last year by
looking at states like California that have responsible and efficient programs that have reduced
costs while adding coverage to those in need.
The Affordable Care Act has already extended coverage to dependents up to age 26 and
prevented health insurance companies from denying care to children with pre-existing
conditions. In 2014 the law will dramatically expand coverage for most Americans. For lowincome
people who have no health insurance now, the law calls for more than 16 million to
become eligible for Medicaid.
The program serves 50 million people, the vast majority children and the rest people with
disabilities. Cut the program at the knees now and future benefits will never come to pass and the
effects now will also be catastrophic.
We already see more people delaying care until only a costly dramatic or emergency room
intervention can save them. We see more and more Californians out of work or without good
jobs with benefits. Cut more out of the safety net and we will see nonprofit community clinics,
long the only bastion for low cost preventive care, closing their doors in record numbers.
Hospitals, community health centers and doctors serving low-income Americans would be
Additionally, California will suffer. If Medicaid is slashed, our state stands to lose as many as
28,440 more jobs, and up to $3.7 billion in related revenue according to a new report by the
nonprofit health-advocacy group Families USA.
California just enacted enormous and extraordinarily painful spending cuts to almost every
program, university, hospital, clinic and courthouse in our state and we cannot weather another
round of slashing.
It’s no mystery how important the safety net is for children and families like Estela’s.
We’ve become accustomed to the slow unraveling of the healthcare safety net, rising
unemployment and revenue losses. President Obama can stop these phenomena. California has
done a lot to control the cost of Medicaid and that should be recognized before implementing a
Do not betray Estela Chavez and millions more like her. President Obama can take leadership to
protect seniors, people with disabilities and children now.
Jim Mangia is president & CEO of St. John’s Well Child and Family Centers, a network of
federally qualified health centers in South Los Angeles which serve more than 140,000 patient
visits each year.
Dave Regan is president United Healthcare Workers West, which represents 150,000 hospital,
nursing home and in-home care workers in California.