I am a vocal advocate for quality, affordable health care for everyone in the Inland Empire. My top priorities are to support the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, protect and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid, and attract physicians to provide care in our region.
The Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act established a framework to provide access to health care for millions of Americans. The federal and state health insurance marketplaces allowing individuals and small businesses to shop for insurance plans launched on October 1, 2013. These sites will make it easier to compare plans and learn about subsidies to help those who cannot afford to purchase health insurance on their own. In California, that means residents can turn to Covered California to learn more about their insurance options, compare, and purchase plans. Open enrollment continues through March 31, 2014, but the sooner you choose a plan the sooner you get coverage.
The Affordable Care Act ended pre-existing condition exclusions and lifetime caps for all Americans, allowed young adults to stay on their parents' plans longer, and saved seniors millions in prescription drug costs. As your representative, I will fight to protect the Affordable Care Act and ensure that the law is implemented in a fair manner.
Protecting Medicare and Medicaid
Medicare and Medicaid provide access to care for some of our must vulnerable populations. I strongly oppose Republican attempts to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher program that shifts costs to seniors and those with disabilities. I support allowing Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate prescription drugs prices, which could lower costs for seniors and save the federal government $130 billion. I will stand firm against efforts to decrease benefits for seniors, or transform Medicaid into a block grant program.
Each year, Congress struggles to find a fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). Without further Congressional action, Medicare physician payments could be cut by 24.4% at the end of March. A reduction in Medicare payments would have a devastating effect on physicians, health care providers, and patients across the country. Bipartisan, bicameral legislation has been proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to eliminate the SGR and reform Medicare payments. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to find a solution that ends the uncertainty of the SGR once and for all and ensures that Medicare patients can continue to be served by their physicians.
Health Care Workforce
Residents of the Inland Empire struggle to find access to care. In Riverside County, there are only thirty-four physicians for every 100,000 people. That's why I'm thrilled that the UC Riverside School of Medicine will be opening this fall. The School of Medicine will help attract health care providers to train and practice in the Inland Empire. In addition, I support expanding the Medicare Graduate Medical Education (GME) Program that helps defer the cost of residency positions and trains physicians to meet California's growing health care needs. We also need to increase our nursing workforce. As a former Riverside Community College (RCC) Board Member, I am proud of the first-rate education and training that the RCC School of Nursing offers students in the Inland Empire. I will continue work to ensure that we strengthen incentives to draw health care providers to our region.
While I'm committed to the reforms included in the Affordable Care Act, we must continue to pursue proposals to lower costs and ensure that everyone has access to care. That's why I'm a cosponsor of H.R. 261, the Public Option Deficit Reduction Act. This bill would create a public health insurance option within the health insurance exchanges. Not only will a public option increase access to care, it will help to drive down costs by competing with private plans. It's estimated that a public option could lower health insurance premiums by between five to seven percent. According to the Congressional Budget Office, a public option would save $104 billion from 2013 to 2022. This money can be used to strengthen subsidies and make private plans in the exchanges more affordable for working families, or help pay down the deficit. I will continue to look innovative ways to lower costs and provide the best quality care to the people of Riverside County.