A great night for California, and for health care…

What a great election night.

President Barack Obama’s re-election is exciting and important for many reasons, but the biggest and most immediate impact is the continued implementation of the historic Affordable Care Act.

It means security for 14,000 Californians who insurers denied for their health status, but got new coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program (PCIP), a part of “Obamacare.” Those folks won’t have to worry about a new President who argued he wanted to repeal the law entirely, leaving them uninsured and uninsurable. It means no more worrying for the 550,000 Californians now getting coverage through the Low-Income Health Program, and who will soon be flipped into full Medi-Cal coverage. It means hope for the millions more who will get Medi-Cal or help from the new Exchange in picking and affording health coverage. And it means relief for all Americans, who can now focus on the new options and benefits in the law, rather than relitigating the issue of health care after a repeal.

Even in California, with its lead among the states, the Brown Administration will need to scramble to be ready in time, to start signing Californians up for coverage in the third quarter of 2013–less than a year from now. Appropriately, Governor Brown has already called for a legislative special session to specifically consider health reform implementation, including the expansion of Medi-Cal and the new rules for the insurance market. Beyond legislation, the Exchange is about to submit a grant request to the federal government for its operations for the next few years. And there’s a host of administrative, regulatory, and other actions to take for California to be ready in time, to maximize the benefit.

The passage of Proposition 30 means California may have a greater ability to focus on the task of implementing health reform, rather than budget deficit after budget deficit. The passage of revenues–a sales tax and a income tax increase for the wealthiest Californians–prevents severe cuts to school from being triggered, but it also helps stabilize the state budget. And that helps health and human services (the 2nd biggest thing in the budget after education), and thus health reform.

Finally, Democrats appear to have increased their margins in the Assembly and Senate, providing more support for the work to implement and improve upon health reform.

Back on Congress, it appears that no U.S. Senator who voted for the Affordable Care Act, even those in tough states in Missouri or Montana, lost. If anything, some of the new Senators will be more vocal proponents for health reform as we move forward.

Yet at least one Senator that opposed it, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, lost. Here in California, it seems that three opponents of health reform are now positioned (pending further ballot counting) to lose–Rep. Dan Lungren, Rep. Brian Bilbray, and Rep. Mary Bono Mack. Two of those candidates are beaten by medical professionals, who have a history of working in the safety-net: Dr. Ami Bera in the Sacramento area, and Dr. Raul Ruiz in Palm Springs. We’ll see if these results hold.

So it was a good night for health care, which will be important as the Congress will go directly into a high-stakes debate about the federal budget, with huge implications for Medicaid and Medicare.

As is often the case, the end of the campaign is just the beginning–but the good news is that it is the rewarding work of improving our health system for California and the country. Let’s do this!

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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