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Super Bowl Parade Shooting Survivors Await Promised Donations While Bills Pile Up

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Peggy Lowe, KCUR and Bram Sable-Smith
Fri, 21 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Abigail Arellano keeps her son Samuel's medical bills in a blue folder in a cabinet above the microwave. Even now, four months after the 11-year-old was shot at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade, the bills keep coming.

There's one for $1,040 for the ambulance ride to the hospital that February afternoon. Another for $2,841.17 from an emergency room visit they made three days after the shooting because his bullet wound looked infected. More follow-ups and counseling in March added another $1,500.

“I think I'm missing some,” Arellano said as she leafed through the pages.

The Arellanos are uninsured and counting on assistance from the fund that raised nearly $2 million in the aftermath of the shooting that left one dead and at least 24 other people with bullet wounds. She keeps that application in the blue folder as well.

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The medical costs incurred by the survivors of the shooting are hitting hard, and they won't end soon. The average medical spending for someone who is shot increases by nearly $30,000 in the first year, according to a Harvard Medical School study. Another study found that number goes up to $35,000 for children. Ten kids were shot at the parade.

Then there are life's ordinary bills — rent, utilities, car repairs — that don't stop just because someone survived a mass shooting, even if their injuries prevent them from working or sending kids to school.

The financial burden that comes with surviving is so common it has a name, according to Aswad Thomas of the nonprofit Alliance for Safety and Justice: victimization debt. Some pay it out-of-pocket. Some open a new credit card. Some find help from generous strangers. Others can't make ends meet.

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“We're really broke right now,” said Jacob Gooch Sr., another survivor, who was shot through the foot and has not yet been able to return to work.

“We're, like, exhausting our third credit card.”

As is common after mass shootings, a mosaic of new and established resources emerged in this Missouri city promising help. Those include the #KCStrong fund established by the United Way of Greater Kansas City, which is expected to begin paying victims at the end of June.

Survivors must navigate each opportunity to request help as best they can — and hope money comes through.

GoFundMes, Generous Strangers, and a New Line of Credit

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Mostly, it's the moms who keep the bills organized. Tucked above the microwave. Zipped inside a purse. Screenshots stored on a phone. And then there's a maze of paperwork: The Missouri state victims' compensation form is five pages, including instructions. It's another six pages for help from the United Way.

Emily Tavis keeps stacks of paperwork with color-coded binder clips in her basement: Black for her partner, Gooch Sr.; blue for her stepson, Jacob Gooch Jr.; pink for herself. All three were shot at the parade.

Tavis was able to walk after a bullet ripped through her leg, and she considered declining the ambulance ride because she was worried about the cost — she lacked insurance at the time.

Gooch Sr. was unable to walk because he'd been shot in the foot. So they shared an ambulance to the hospital with two of their kids.

Tavis and Gooch Sr. received separate $1,145 bills for the ambulance. Gooch Jr. did not, possibly because he has coverage through Medicaid, Tavis said.

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She sends the medical bills to victims' compensation, a program to help with the economic losses from a crime, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Even though Tavis and Gooch live in Leavenworth, Kansas, their compensation comes from the program in Missouri, where the shooting occurred.

The program pays only for economic losses not covered by other sources like health insurance, donations, and crowdsourced fundraisers. Gooch Sr. and Jr. both had health insurance at the time of the parade, so the family has been sending only the uncovered portion to victims' compensation.

The family initially received a lot of support. Friends and relatives made sure they had food to eat. The founder of an online group of Kansas City Chiefs fans sent $1,000 and gifts for the family. A GoFundMe page raised $9,500. And their tax refund helped.

They knew money might get tight with Gooch Sr. unable to work, so they paid three months' rent in advance. They also paid to have his Ford Escape fixed so he could eventually return to work and bought Tavis a used Honda Accord so she could drive to the job she started 12 days after the parade.

And because the donations were intended for the whole family, they decided to buy summer passes to the Worlds of Fun amusement park for the kids.

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But recently, they've felt stretched. Gooch Sr.'s short-term disability payments abruptly stopped in May when his health insurance prompted him to see an in-network doctor. He said the short-term disability plan initially didn't approve the paperwork from his new doctor and started an investigation. The issue was resolved in June and he was expecting back pay soon. In the interim, though, the couple opened a new credit card to cover their bills.

In the interim, the couple opened a new credit card to cover their bills.

“We've definitely been robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Tavis said.

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Ideally, the money that eventually comes from the United Way, victims' compensation, and, they hope, back pay from short-term disability will be enough to pay off their debts.

But, Tavis said, “You gotta do what you gotta do. We're not going to go without lights.”

United Way Payout Expected at End of June

With every mass shooting, donations for survivors inevitably flow in, “just like peanut butter goes with jelly, because people want to help,” said Jeff Dion, executive director of the Mass Violence Survivors Fund, a nonprofit that has helped many communities manage such funds.

Typically, he said, it takes about five months to disburse the money from these large community funds. Victims can potentially get money sooner if their community has a plan in place for these types of funds before a mass shooting. Funds may also advance money to people with urgent financial needs who are certain to qualify.

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The United Way hung banners in the Chiefs colors on Kansas City's Union Station with its #KCStrong campaign within days of the shootings. Driven by large donations from the team, the NFL, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, other individuals, and local companies, it ultimately raised more than $1.8 million.

The promise of a large payout has kept the injured hopeful, even as many felt confused by the process. Some people interviewed for this story did not wish to say anything negative, fearing it would hurt their allocation.

United Way officials announced in April that donations would be closed at the end of that month. On May 1, the organization posted a notice saying it would issue “claimant forms” and that the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office was helping verify shooting victims. The United Way affiliate's board of trustees plans to meet June 26 to determine allocations, with payments arriving as early as June 27.

Kera Mashek, a spokesperson for United Way of Greater Kansas City, said payouts will be made to 20 of the 24 shooting survivors. The other four either couldn't be verified as victims or turned down the funds, she said. Claimants do not include the 67 people prosecutors say were trampled in the melee, she said.

Pending board approval, money will also be disbursed to 14 community groups that support nonviolence initiatives, mental health concerns, and first responders, Mashek said.

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To criticism that the United Way didn't communicate well with the victims, Mashek said it tried to respond in a timely manner.

“We've tried to keep that line of communication open as fast as possible and most people have been very patient,” she said. “I think that they will be very grateful and very, I believe, pleasantly surprised with the amount of funding that they receive.”

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Abigail Arellano hadn't heard of victims' compensation, which is common. A 2022 survey from the Alliance for Safety and Justice found that 96% of victims did not receive that support and many didn't know it existed.

Arellano and her husband, Antonio, didn't attend the parade but they've had medical expenses as well. Antonio has been going to therapy at a local health center to help with the stressful task of guiding his son through the trauma. It's been helpful. But he's been paying around $125 out-of-pocket for each session, he said, and the bills are mounting.

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One of Samuel's sisters set up a GoFundMe that raised $12,500, and Abigail said it helped that the family shared their story publicly and that Abigail reached out to help others in the Latino community affected by the shooting.

It was Abigail, for instance, who connected 71-year-old Sarai Holguin with the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City. The consulate, in turn, helped Holguin register as an official victim of the shooting, which will enable her to receive assistance from the United Way. Holguin's bills now include a fourth surgery, to remove the bullet lodged near her knee that she had previously made peace with living with forever — until it began protruding through her skin.

‘Generous and Quick' Relief to Victims

Several survivors were relieved and grateful to receive funds from a less high-profile, nondenominational group called “The Church Loves Kansas City.

The day after the shooting, Gary Kendall, who ran a Christian nonprofit called “Love KC,” started a text chain at 6 a.m. with city leaders and faith-based groups, and eventually received pledges of $184,500. (Love KC has now merged with another nonprofit, “Unite KC,” which is disbursing its funds.)

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The first payout went to the family of Lisa Lopez-Galvan, the 43-year-old mother of two and popular DJ who was the sole fatality during the parade shootings. Unite KC spent $15,000 on her burial expenses.

Unite KC spent $2,800 so James and Brandie Lemons could get their health insurance restored because James couldn't work. Unite KC also paid $2,200 for the out-of-pocket surgical costs when James decided to get the bullet removed from his leg.

“I appreciate it,” an emotional James Lemons said. “They don't have to do that, to open their hearts for no reason.”

Erika Nelson was struggling to pay for household expenses and had to take time off from her home health care job to take her injured daughter, 15-year-old Mireya, to doctor appointments. Mireya was shot in the chin and shoulder and is recovering.

A GoFundMe page set up by Nelson's best friend raised about $11,000, but it was frozen after Nelson tried to get into the account and GoFundMe thought it was being hacked. She feared the lights would be shut off in their apartment, because of unpaid electric bills, and was feeling desperate.

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“I'm struggling with, like, you know, groceries,” Nelson said. “People were like, ‘Oh, go to food pantries.' Well, the food pantries are not open the times I can get off. I can't just take off work to go to a food pantry.”

After meeting with Gary Kendall, Nelson received three months of rent and utility payments, about $3,500.

“A weight off my shoulder. I mean, yeah. In a big way,” she whispered. “'Cause you never know. You never know what can happen in two days, five days, two weeks, two months.”

Samuel Arellano's family recently connected with Unite KC, which will pay for his ambulance bill, one of the hospital bills, and some therapy, worth about $6,000. The bill for the initial emergency room trip was about $20,000, his parents said, but the hospital had been reluctant to send it and ultimately covered the cost.

And Unite KC also intends to pay off a $1,300 credit card bill for Emily Tavis and Jacob Gooch Sr.

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Unite KC has disbursed $40,000 so far and hopes to connect with more of the injured families, hoping to be as “generous and quick as we can,” Kendall said. United Way will be like a “lightning bolt” for victims' relief, Kendall said, but his group is aiming for something different, more like a campfire that burns for the next year.

“We agree this is a horrific thing that happened. It's a sad state of humanity but it's a real part,” he said. “So we want to remind them that God has not forgotten you. And that although he allowed this, he has not abandoned them. We believe we can be like an extension of his love to these people.”

——————————
By: Peggy Lowe, KCUR and Bram Sable-Smith
Title: Super Bowl Parade Shooting Survivors Await Promised Donations While Bills Pile Up
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org//article/super-bowl-parade-shooting-survivors-donations-bills-wait-kansas-city/
Published Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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Despite Past Storms’ Lessons, Long-Term Care Residents Again Left Powerless

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Sandy West
Mon, 15 Jul 2024 19:11:05 +0000

HOUSTON — As Tina Kitzmiller sat inside her sweltering apartment, windows and doors open in the hope of catching even the slightest breeze, she was frustrated and worried for her dog and her neighbors.

It had been days since Hurricane Beryl blew ashore from the Gulf of Mexico on July 8, causing widespread destruction and knocking out power to more than 2 million people, including the Houston senior independent living facility where Kitzmiller lives. Outdoor temperatures had reached at least 90 degrees most days, and the heat inside the building was stifling.

Kitzmiller moved there not long ago with Kai, her 12-year-old dog, shortly after riding out 90-plus-mph winds from a May derecho under a comforter on the floor of the 33-foot RV she called home. She didn't need medical care, as a nursing home would offer, and thought she and Kai could be safer at an independent senior facility than in the RV. She assumed her new home would have an emergency power system in place at least equivalent to that of the post offices she'd worked in for 35 years.

“I checked out the food. I checked out the activities,” said Kitzmiller, 61, now retired. “I didn't know I needed to inquire about a generator.”

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Even after multiple incidents of extreme weather — including a 2021 Texas winter storm that caused widespread blackouts and prompted a U.S. Senate investigation — not much has changed for those living in long-term care facilities when natural disasters strike in Texas or elsewhere.

“There has been some movement, but I think it's been way too slow,” said David Grabowski, a professor of care policy at Harvard Medical School. “We keep getting tested and we keep failing the test. But I do think we are going to have to face this issue.”

A power outage can be difficult for anyone, but older adults are especially vulnerable to temperature extremes, with medications or medical conditions affecting their bodies' ability to regulate heat and cold. Additionally, some medications need refrigeration while others cannot get too cold.

Federal guidelines require nursing homes to maintain safe indoor temperatures but do not regulate how. For example, facilities face no requirement that generators or other alternative energy sources support heating and air conditioning systems. States are largely responsible for compliance, Grabowski said, and if states are failing in that regard, change doesn't happen.

Furthermore, while nursing homes face such federal oversight, lower-care-level facilities that provide some medical care — known as assisted living — are regulated at the state level, so the rules for emergency preparedness vary widely.

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Some states have toughened those guidelines. Maryland adopted rules for generators in assisted living facilities following Hurricane Isabel, which left more than 1.2 million residents in the state without power in 2003. Florida did so for nursing homes and assisted living facilities in 2018, after Hurricane Irma led to deaths at one facility.

But Texas has not. And no requirements for generators exist in Texas for the roughly 2,000 assisted living facilities or the even less regulated independent living sites, like Kitzmiller's.

Generally, apartment complexes marketed to senior citizens, known in the industry as independent living facilities, don't have any special regulations in Texas and many other states.

Nationally, assisted living facilities and independent living facilities have been the fastest-growing sectors in senior living. Residents at such facilities often have medical needs, Grabowski said, but for a variety of reasons have chosen to live in an environment that allows more independence than a nursing home, which would provide medical care. That doesn't mean the residents in these lower-care-level facilities are any less susceptible to extreme temperatures when the power goes out.

“If you're overwhelmed by the heat in your apartment, that's unsafe,” he said.

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Republican state Rep. Ed Thompson tried several times since 2020 to pass legislation requiring assisted living facilities in Texas to have backup generators. But the bills failed. He is not seeking reelection this year.

“It's horrible what the state of Texas is doing,” said Thompson, blaming corporate greed and politicians more interested in stirring up their base and raising their national profile than improving the lives of Texans. “How we treat our elderly says something about us — and they're not being treated right.”

Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said at a July 11 press conference that senior facility operators are accountable if they do not keep residents safe. “That location is responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of the patients and residents that are there,” he told reporters. “It is that facility's responsibility.”

Under Texas law, power restoration is supposed to be prioritized for nursing, assisted living, and hospice facilities.

The resistance to adding oversight or more governmental protections has not surprised Gregory Shelley, a senior manager at the Harris County Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at UTHealth Houston's Cizik School of Nursing. He said that while he believes the safety and health of residents are paramount, he recognizes that installing generators is expensive. He also said some people within the industry continue to believe extreme events are rare.

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“But all of us in Houston this year already learned that they're happening more frequently,” Shelley said. “This is already the third time since May that big portions of Houston have been without power for long periods of time.”

After the 2021 blackouts, Texas' Health and Human Services Commission conducted a voluntary survey that found 47% of the assisted living and 99% of the nursing care facilities that responded reported having generators.

The U.S. Senate investigation following the 2021 Texas storm recommended a national requirement that assisted living facilities have emergency power supplies to both maintain safe temperatures and keep medical equipment running.

A 2023 annual report from Texas' long-term care ombudsman, Patty Ducayet, also recommended requiring generators at assisted living centers. The report suggested that all long-term care facilities maintain safe temperatures in a location that can be accessed by every resident. The report recommended requiring assisted living facilities to annually submit emergency response plans to state regulators to be reviewed by state officials. The recommendations have not been adopted.

On July 15 — more than a week after Beryl hit — Kitzmiller said she just wanted the power back on. She praised the staff at her facility but said she worried for residents who were isolated on her building's second and third floors, which were hotter amid the outage. Some were unable to keep required medicine refrigerated, she said. And without functioning elevators, many couldn't get to the first floor, where it was cooler.

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Mostly, Kitzmiller said, she was frustrated with companies and politicians who hadn't yet fixed the problem.

“It's their mothers, their grandmothers, and their family in these homes, these facilities,” she said. “All I can think is ‘Shame on you.'”

——————————
By: Sandy West
Title: Despite Past Storms' Lessons, Long-Term Care Residents Again Left Powerless
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org//article/texas-blackouts-nursing-homes-long-term-care-disaster-preparedness-power-outage-generators/
Published Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2024 19:11:05 +0000

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5 Cases of Bird Flu Reported in Colorado Poultry Workers, Doubling This Year’s US Tally

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Amy Maxmen
Mon, 15 Jul 2024 17:26:21 +0000

Five people who work at a poultry farm in northeastern Colorado have tested positive for the bird flu, the Colorado public health department reported July 14. This brings the known number of U.S. cases to nine.

The five people were likely infected by chickens, which they had been tasked with killing in response to a bird flu outbreak at the farm.

More than 99 million chickens and turkeys have been infected with a highly pathogenic strain of the bird flu that emerged at U.S. poultry farms in early 2022. Since then, the federal government has compensated poultry farmers more than $1 billion for destroying infected flocks and eggs to keep outbreaks from spreading.

The H5N1 bird flu virus has spread among poultry farms around the world for nearly 30 years. An estimated 900 people have been infected by birds, and roughly half have died from the disease.

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The virus made an unprecedented shift this year to dairy cattle in the U.S. This poses a higher threat because it means the virus has adapted to replicate within cows' cells, which are more like human cells. The four other people diagnosed with bird flu this year in the U.S. worked on dairy farms with outbreaks.

Scientists have warned that the virus could mutate to spread from person to person, like the seasonal flu, and spark a pandemic. There's no sign of that, yet.

So far, all nine cases reported this year have been mild, consisting of eye irritation, a runny nose, and other respiratory symptoms. However, numbers remain too low to say anything certain about the disease because, in general, flu symptoms can vary among people with only a minority needing hospitalization.

The number of people who have gotten the virus from poultry or cattle may be higher than nine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tested only about 60 people over the past four months, and powerful diagnostic laboratories that typically detect diseases remain barred from testing. Testing of farmworkers and animals is needed to detect the H5N1 bird flu virus, study it, and stop it before it becomes a fixture on farms.

Researchers have urged a more aggressive response from the CDC and other federal agencies to prevent future infections. Many people exposed regularly to livestock and poultry on farms still lack protective gear and education about the disease. And they don't yet have permission to get a bird flu vaccine.

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Nearly a dozen virology and outbreak experts recently interviewed by KFF Health News disagree with the CDC's decision against vaccination, which may help prevent bird flu infection and hospitalization.

“We should be doing everything we can to eliminate the chances of dairy and poultry workers contracting this virus,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. “If this virus is given enough opportunities to jump from cows or poultry into people, it will eventually get better at infecting them.”

To understand whether cases are going undetected, researchers in Michigan have sent the CDC blood samples from workers on dairy farms. If they detect bird flu antibodies, it's likely that people are more easily infected by cattle than previously believed.

“It's possible that folks may have had symptoms that they didn't feel comfortable reporting, or that their symptoms were so mild that they didn't think they were worth mentioning,” said Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive for the state of Michigan.

In hopes of thwarting a potential pandemic, the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and about a dozen other countries are stockpiling millions of doses of a bird flu vaccine made by the vaccine company CSL Seqirus.

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Seqirus' most recent formulation was greenlighted last year by the European equivalent of the FDA, and an earlier version has the FDA's approval. In June, Finland decided to offer vaccines to people who work on fur farms as a precaution because its mink and fox farms were hit by bird flu last year.

The CDC has controversially decided not to offer at-risk groups bird flu vaccines. Demetre Daskalakis, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told KFF Health that the agency is not recommending a vaccine campaign at this point for several reasons, even though millions of doses are available. One is that cases still appear to be limited, and the virus isn't spreading rapidly between people as they sneeze and breathe.

The agency continues to rate the public's risk as low. In a statement posted in response to the new Colorado cases, the CDC said its bird flu recommendations remain the same: “An assessment of these cases will help inform whether this situation warrants a change to the human risk assessment.”

——————————
By: Amy Maxmen
Title: 5 Cases of Bird Flu Reported in Colorado Poultry Workers, Doubling This Year's US Tally
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/five-bird-flu-cases-colorado-poultry-workers-virus-spread/
Published Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2024 17:26:21 +0000

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California Health Care Pioneer Goes National, Girds for Partisan Skirmishes

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Samantha Young
Mon, 15 Jul 2024 09:00:00 +0000

SACRAMENTO — When then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called for nearly all Californians to buy insurance or face a penalty, Anthony Wright slammed the 2007 proposal as “unwarranted, unworkable, and unwise” — one that would punish those who could least afford coverage. The head of Health Access California, one of the state's most influential consumer groups, changed course only after he and his allies extracted a deal to increase subsidies for people in need.

The plan was ultimately blocked by Democrats who wanted the state to adopt a single-payer health care system instead. Yet the moment encapsulates classic Anthony Wright: independent-minded and willing to compromise if it could help Californians live healthier lives without going broke.

This summer, Wright will assume the helm of the health consumer group Families USA, taking his campaign for more affordable and accessible health care to the national level and a deeply divided Congress. In his 23 years in Sacramento, Wright has successfully lobbied to outlaw surprise medical billing, require companies to report drug price increases, and cap hospital bills for uninsured patients — policies that have spread nationwide.

“He pushed the envelope and gave people aspirational leadership,” said Jennifer Kent, who served as Schwarzenegger's head of the Department of Health Care Services, which administers the state Medicaid program. The two were often on opposing sides on health policy issues. “There was always, like, one more thing, one more goal, one more thing to achieve.”

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Recently, Wright co-led a coalition of labor and immigrant rights activists to provide comprehensive Medicaid benefits to all eligible California residents regardless of immigration status. The state funds this coverage because the federal government doesn't allow it.

His wins have come mostly under Democratic governors and legislatures and when Republican support hasn't been needed. That will not be the case in Washington, D.C., where Republicans currently control the House and the Senate Democratic Caucus has a razor-thin majority, which has made it extremely difficult to pass substantive legislation. November's elections are not expected to ease the partisan impasse.

Though both Health Access and Families USA are technically nonpartisan, they tend to align with Democrats and lobby for Democratic policies, including abortion rights. But “Anthony doesn't just talk to his own people,” said David Panush, a veteran Sacramento health policy consultant. “He has an ability to connect with people who don't agree with you on everything.”

Wright, who interned for Vice President Al Gore and worked as a consumer advocate at the Federal Communications Commission in his 20s, acknowledges his job will be tougher in the nation's capital, and said he is “wide-eyed about the dysfunction” there. He said he also plans to work directly with state lawmakers, including encouraging those in the 10, mostly Republican states that have not yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to do so.

In an interview with California Healthline senior correspondent Samantha Young, Wright, 53, discussed his accomplishments in Sacramento and the challenges he will face leading a national consumer advocacy group. His remarks have been edited for length and clarity.

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Q: Is there something California has done that you'd like to see other states or the federal government adopt?

Just saying “We did this in California” is not going to get me very far in 49 other states. But stuff that has already gone national, like the additional assistance to buy health care coverage with state subsidies, that became something that was a model for what the federal government did in the American Rescue Plan [Act] and the Inflation Reduction Act. Those additional tax credits have had a huge impact. About 5 million Americans have coverage because of them. Yet, those additional tax credits expire in 2025. If those tax credits expire, the average premium will spike $400 a month.

Q: You said you will find yourself playing defense if former President Donald Trump is elected in November. What do you mean?

Our health is on the ballot. I worry about the Affordable Care Act and the protections for preexisting conditions, the help for people to afford coverage, and all the other consumer patient protections. I think reproductive health is obviously front and center, but that's not the only thing that could be taken away. It could also be something like Medicare's authority to negotiate prices on prescription drugs.

Q: But Trump has said he doesn't want to repeal the ACA this time, rather “make it better.”

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We just need to look at the record of what was proposed during his first term, which would have left millions more people uninsured, which would have spiked premiums, which would have gotten rid of key patient protections.

Q: What's on your agenda if President Joe Biden wins reelection?

It partially depends on the makeup of Congress and other elected officials. Do you extend this guarantee that nobody has to spend more than 8.5% of their income on coverage? Are there benefits that we can actually improve in Medicare and Medicaid with regard to vision and dental? What are the cost drivers in our health system?

There is a lot we can do at both the state and the federal level to get people both access to health care and also financial security, so that their health emergency doesn't become a financial emergency as well.

Q: Will it be harder to get things done in a polarized Washington?

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The dysfunction of D.C. is a real thing. I don't have delusions that I have any special powers, but we will try to do our best to make progress. There are still very stark differences, whether it's about the Affordable Care Act or, more broadly, about the social safety net. But there's always opportunities for advancing an agenda.

There could be a lot of common ground on areas like health care costs and having greater oversight and accountability for quality in cost and quality in value, for fixing market failures in our health system.

Q: What would happen in California if the ACA were repealed?

When there was the big threat to the ACA, a lot of people thought, “Can't California just do its own thing?” Without the tens of billions of dollars that the Affordable Care Act provides, it would have been very hard to sustain. If you get rid of those subsidies, and 5 million Californians lose their coverage, it becomes a smaller and sicker risk pool. Then premiums spike up for everybody, and, basically, the market becomes a death spiral that will cover nobody, healthy or sick.

Q: California expanded Medicaid to qualified immigrants living in the state without authorization. Do you think that could happen at the federal level?

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Not at the moment. I would probably be more focused on the states that are not providing Medicaid to American citizens [who] just happen to be low-income. They are turning away precious dollars that are available for them.

Q: What do you take away from your time at Health Access that will help you in Washington?

It's very rare that anything of consequence is done in a year. In many cases, we've had to run a bill or pursue a policy for multiple years or sessions. So, the power of persistence is that if you never give up, you're never defeated, only delayed. Prescription drug price transparency took three years, surprise medical bills took three years, the hospital fair-pricing act took five years.

Having a coalition of consumer voices is important. Patients and the public are not just another stakeholder. Patients and the public are the point of the health care system.

This article was produced by KFF Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. 

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——————————
By: Samantha Young
Title: California Health Care Pioneer Goes National, Girds for Partisan Skirmishes
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org//article/anthony-wright-qa-families-usa-health-policy/
Published Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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