One day before Democratic presidential hopefuls gather in Westchester for their sixth debate, the party’s leader met with local elected officials in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday for a panel discussion to stress the importance of federal health care options for Latinos.
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, and California health care stakeholders focused their discussion on what they see as threats on the federal level targeting health care for immigrants, particularly those in the country illegally.
The meeting was organized by Democrats to hone in on federal policies and plans that would expand health care services for Latinos.
Garcetti said the purpose of the meeting was to find ways to save lives.
“We’ve got people who, in the extreme, are dying, whether it’s from cancer because they are scared about going to a clinic, whether it’s people on the streets of Los Angeles or whether it’s just people who don’t have access because they don’t see themselves in the health care system,” Garcetti told City News Service during the gathering at The California Endowment.
The mayor said it’s imperative to have more Latinos in the health care field to create a more diverse network of medical professionals. Health care representatives at the meeting said California has fewer Latino doctors than it did in the 1980s.
Perez said when health care providers employ a wider diversity of people, patients with different backgrounds are more likely to access services and they can inspire more diverse young people to seek careers in medicine.
“The absence of sufficient health care professions with workforce diversity was one of the primary causes of racial and ethnic disparity in health care,” Perez said. “Health care providers of color are more likely to serve communities of color. That is a fact.”
The mayor said he was encouraged by the meeting, thanks to long-term solutions proposed by medical professionals in hopes of getting more Latino children into the medical education system.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order in October that he said would protect Medicare coverage, although critics have said it could have unintended consequences that could raise patients’ cost for health care. Trump insisted, however, that his action would be a boon for American health care.
“Instead of ending the current Medicare program and eliminating health choices for all Americans, my administration will continue to protect and improve Medicare by building on those aspects of the program that work well, including the market-based approaches in the current system,” Trump said in his executive order.
Garcetti said Medicare changes proposed by the Trump administration could cost patients more and strip medical clinics of millions in federal subsidies, potentially forcing them to close.
“It’s important to have a bipartisan coalition,” Garcetti said. “It’s important to find those red states as well to say, `This is a human issue, this is not a partisan issue, stop weaponizing it.’ And if you can give a tax break worth trillions of dollars to corporations and high-net-worth individuals, why can’t you protect health care for the neediest?”
Garcetti also mentioned the administration’s threat earlier this year to cut the public charge, barring undocumented people from accessing social services and public housing.
Fears stoked by a proposed U.S. Census question on whether someone is a legal citizen have made undocumented people less willing to enter their personal information in a government system, such as Medicare and other public health care options, officials said. Various Latino advocacy organizations have warned that if undocumented residents submit their personal information, it will make them a target for deportation.
“If you’re not counted this year and you’re not voting this year, you’re going to be playing defense for many years to come,” Garcetti said. “We need more Latino doctors and nurses, we need more access for immigrants, and we need to make sure that we have policies that aren’t scaring people away from the treatment that they can get.”