Getting health insurance saves lives

Imagine a hardworking 53-year-old in Santa Rosa who suffers from chronic, disabling abdominal pain, and regularly cries to sleep. He did not respond to three treatment courses for the bacteria that commonly cause stomach ulcers. He dreams of a life without constant distress. Without health insurance, he cannot afford a proper examination and treatment that would allow his nightly suffering to be cured.

Lack of insurance coverage and unreasonable health care are a major impediment to the well-being of the more than 25,000 Sonoma County residents, who disproportionately use hospitals and are dying. As a family physician who has been in Santa Rosa for 20 years, I have witnessed how insurance coverage brings stability and vitality to patients. But the fragmented employer-based insurance coverage system leaves people vulnerable, and many die because they cannot access health care.

Having spent more than 1,000 hours teaching population health to UCSF residents, I believe we all do better when we all do better.

Insurance coverage saves lives. The best way to protect people with diabetes and high blood pressure from heart attacks and strokes is to get health insurance for them. The best way to increase cancer screening rates is to remove financial barriers to obtaining health insurance. In addition to prevention, insurance allows greater access to medications and specialist referrals.

Insurance coverage saves money. The Council of Economic Advisers reported that extending coverage to the uninsured would be an economic stimulus without negative effects on state budgets. The California Office of Health Care Affordability will work to reduce costs and increase transparency within the health care system, including developing cost targets and implementing new investments to reduce health insurance premiums.

Insurance coverage narrows health inequality. Where we are born, live, learn, work and play all have a profound impact on health. A 2021 update of the Sonoma County profile shows that the number of residents without insurance has fallen from 15% in 2014 to 6% in 2021.

Inequality in insurance coverage is mostly due to employment status, which has long been denied to people of color. Increasing coverage would particularly improve outcomes for those in poor health and the most historically disadvantaged groups in terms of access to care.

Some may be concerned about the cost of extending everyone’s insurance coverage, but one ounce of prevention is worth a penny of cure. Access to health services, such as universal access to K-12 education, fire departments and interstate highways, is indispensable to all Californians.

Our country was founded by immigrants seeking a better life. Our melting pot thrives when we have social cohesion: a growing wave of expanded insurance coverage is lifting all boats.

Insurance coverage for all Californians on hand. Beginning May 1, the Seniors Extension gave full Medi-Cal coverage to all adults age 50 and older. Immigration status does not matter, although all other Medi-Cal eligibility rules, including income limits, still apply. Overnight, thousands of patients can be secured at Santa Rosa Community Health. Please direct people who do not have insurance to certified registration counselors at sonomacounty.ca.gov.

Based on previously approved expansions, Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing to fully expand Medi-Cal coverage for income-eligible and undocumented residents between the ages of 26 and 49, beginning January 1, 2024. Please reach out to state legislators on budget committees for assistance with Pass these items as part of the 2022-23 budget, which is due by June 15. You can find members on assembly.ca.gov And senate.ca.gov.

Because everyone deserves life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, obtaining health insurance for uninsured Sonoma County residents is essential.

Dr. Danny Taub is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, a faculty member in the Department of Family Medicine at Sutter Santa Rosa, and chief medical officer at Santa Rosa Community Health.

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