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Sacramento Convening Discusses Ways to Improve Health Equity in Post-ACA California

Sacramento Convening Discusses Ways to Improve Health Equity in Post-ACA California

Over 100 advocates from across the state gathered at the Sierra Health Foundation in Sacramento earlier today for CPEHN’s sixth Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in a Post-ACA California convening. The event, co-hosted by OnTrack Program Resources, highlighted a number of topics that impact health in California’s communities of color, including health care quality, behavioral health integration, and access to health care for the remaining uninsured, particularly undocumented immigrants.

After the popularity of our events in Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside, we were invited by OnTrack to continue the discussion in the state capital. The event began with a presentation by CPEHN Executive Director Sarah de Guia that touched on each of the event’s topics.

She focused on how communities of color, who represent a majority of the state’s population, have the most to gain from successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). She also pointed to the increased enrollment of Latinos and African Americans during Covered California’s second open enrollment period as a sign that the law’s programs are starting to have their intended impact.

She also discussed the inefficiencies of the American health care system, which spends two and a half times as much on health care as other developed countries yet is just 26th in life expectancy. She made the connection between the nation’s stark health disparities, particularly among low-income communities and communities of color, as one of the reasons for the inefficiency. She mentioned that equity and the social determinants of health, especially poverty, should be key focal points in health care quality discussions and detailed how the ACA has made improvements.

Betsy Estudillo from the California Immigrant Policy Center and Annie Fox from Sacramento Area Congregations Together/Sacramento Building Healthy Communities discussed both statewide and local Health for All efforts to promote access to health coverage for undocumented immigrants. Estudillo discussed how undocumented immigrants will be roughly half of the state’s 2.7-3.4 million uninsured following ACA implementation. She also gave updates on SB 4 (Lara), which would extend Medi-Cal eligibility to all children regardless of immigration status and allow undocumented immigrants to purchase health coverage through Covered California, for which they are currently ineligible. Fox talked about local efforts in Sacramento to rally support for Health for All and how Sacramento’s diverse communities are coming together for the cause.

Natalie Benjamin from the Sacramento Native American Health Center then gave a presentation about integrating behavioral and physical health services. She noted that her organization strongly believes in whole person care and sees the promotion of cultural practices as one of its key roles.

Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna then stopped by and encouraged advocates to continue working with policymakers to achieve their goals.

The final presentation featured Covered California’s Health Access and Equity Officer, Jonathan Tran, discussing the organization’s efforts to improve enrollment and engagement in communities of color and Limited English Proficient populations. He discussed several topics, but noted especially the importance of improved data collection to better target areas for improvement, streamlined translations to increase patient understanding of benefits, and how Covered California can use its role as the state’s largest insurance purchaser to strengthen equity efforts by health plans.

The event concluded with small group discussions resulting in great strategies for improving health equity in California. You can follow @CPEHN or #FocusOnEquity on Twitter for more highlights from today’s event.

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