WATSONVILLE About 24,000 people in Santa Cruz County will be eligible for health insurance in 2014 after the Thursday morning decision by the Supreme Court to uphold President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
"We're excited that the U.S. Supreme Court decided to move the cause of professional health care for all forward," said Dan Sedenquist, spokesman for Watsonville-based Salud Para La Gente.
According to the Health Improvement Partnership of Santa Cruz County, as of 2009, 41,000 individuals in Santa Cruz County were uninsured.
The mission of Salud Para La Gente, a Federally Qualified Health Center, is to never turn anyone away, Sedenquist said, noting that the organization is "geared up and ready" to provide health care for the influx of newly insured patients.
Sedenquist said the decision "absolutely" means that the quality of life for Watsonville residents would improve.
"There are a large number of people that are uninsured that will be insured," he said.
Kathleen King, Chief Executive Officer of the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust, was thrilled about the decision.
"It's exciting to know that people who have not previously had health insurance will be able to get insurance, many for the first time in their lives," she said.
One of the initiatives of the Health Trust, King said, is to address the problem of the diabetes epidemic. Under the reform, in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes.
"It's a significant improvement for the prospects of people with diabetes," she said, adding that there is a total of 18,000 people in the central coast region diagnosed with diabetes.
It is estimated that 12,000 low income people in Santa Cruz County those with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for health insurance through the Medi-Cal program starting in 2014, King said.
Another 12,000 people in the county are estimated to be eligible for the Benefit Exchange program starting in 2014. Through the program, employees will be able to buy insurance directly from new market places that provide insurance to their business if the business doesn't already offer affordable health insurance. Those self-employed would also benefit.
In all, 24,000 individuals in the county will be eligible for insurance under the reform.
"A lot of those who will benefit from the Affordable Care Act are hardworking residents of Watsonville," King said.
U.S. Congressman Sam Farr said the decision was a "win" for the nation.
"Millions of American families can breathe easier knowing that access to quality, affordable health care is still the law of the land, Farr stated in press release.
According to Farr, 9,000 to 40,000 children with preexisting health conditions in the central coast region can no longer be denied coverage by health insurers.
Assemblymember Bill Monning, who is the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Health and the author of state legislation to reform health insurance in California, called the decision an "historic achievement by President Obama and Congress."
"This is a victory for all Californians," Monning said in a prepared statement. "California can now continue its efforts to implement federal health care reform without impediment."
The Services Employees International Union Local 521, which represents nurses across 17 counties, including Santa Cruz, also responded.
The Supreme Court has done the right thing, Matt Nathanson, a public health nurse in Santa Cruz County, stated in a press release. Now that the uncertainty around health care is resolved, we can all get to work on fulfilling the promise of the Affordable Care Act that every American has good quality, affordable health care.
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