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Daily Breeze: Groups set to praise, condemn health reform act on its first anniversary

April 1, 2011
In The News
by Melissa Evans

The one-year anniversary of the new health reform act will be marked today with celebratory success stories - and, for critics, renewed calls to appeal the landmark legislation.

A flurry of state and national groups have issued statements condemning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, warning of its cost and impact on free choice.

"Our health care system is too large and too complex to manage at the federal level," according to a statement by Health Care Compact Alliance, which advocates for state's rights.

The legislation, passed with no Republican support, vastly expands access to public health insurance such as Medi-Cal, and curbs the power of insurance companies to exclude those with pre-existing conditions. The law requires all Americans to have health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014.

Amid legal challenges to the law's insurance mandate, proponents plan to celebrate the benefits of the law in Los Angeles County and elsewhere. The Community Clinic Association, among other groups, is spearheading a dozen events at noon today at clinics from West Covina to Santa Monica.

Efforts by congressional Republicans to defund or repeal the law would harm thousands of local residents who currently go without health care, according to Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat who represents Hawthorne, Gardena and Lawndale.

Waters will gather today in Watts with clinic officials and patients to tout the legislation. The law will eventually extend health coverage to 121,000 people in her district alone, she said.

Others agree that the law has already had positive effects.

"Expanding access to care is what we're all about, and the new law has certainly accomplished that," said John Merryman, spokesman for South Bay Family Health Care, which has clinics in Gardena, Redondo Beach and Inglewood.

On Tuesday, statewide advocates held a teleconference touting the early success of the legislation, which has so far allowed insurance access to thousands of children with pre-existing health conditions, provided drug prescription support to seniors on Medicare, offered assistance to small businesses, extended insurance coverage to young people on their parents' plans and established an insurance pool for those who have been denied private coverage.

"In just one year, hundreds of thousands of Californians have already benefited from the new health reform law," said Anthony Wright, director of Health Access, a California advocacy group.

The county is now working to expand its capacity to accommodate thousands more Medi-Cal recipients - which is mostly good news for those who care for the uninsured or indigent. Private hospitals, many physicians, insurers and others are still conflicted about how the law will impact care and finances.

Merryman said the real test of health reform will come in 2014.

"We'll be watching things closely," he said.