By Audra Earle, Stephen Gray and Nanette Mickiwicz

With all the political instability in Washington D.C., it’s difficult to know what our health care system will look like in the future. Despite the recent failure of efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the White House appears to be gearing up to make another attempt. President Donald Trump tasked Vice President Mike Pence with trying to jump-start new negotiations before lawmakers left the Capitol to return to their districts for spring break.

It is unfortunate that the manner in which America cares for its people has become so politicized, but hospitals in the Monterey Bay Section of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California remain focused instead on what is most important — providing care for everyone who needs it, regardless of circumstance. We have delivered a clear and unequivocal message to our elected representatives: Access to coverage and high-quality care must always be an American priority.

People are healthier today because California has expanded access to health care coverage under the ACA. More than 13.5 million Californians, one in three residents, are insured by Medi-Cal, the state program for those who can’t afford private coverage. More than 3.7 million children, seniors and hard-working families across the state are no longer uninsured. Of that number, more than 72,000 people live in the Monterey Bay region.

Make no mistake, coverage and preventive medical care make a huge difference in peoples’ lives.

For children, coverage means medical, dental and vision services. Youth are being immunized and screened to ensure they have a healthy start in life. Health care services help minimize the number of school days students miss due to illness. Any teacher will tell you that the more time children spend in the classroom, the better they perform academically. We want every child, regardless of where they live or their economic circumstance to have a chance to succeed. Health care plays an important part in this effort.

The same is true for adults. Coverage and care helps prevent illness and reliance on hospital emergency rooms. Men and women are today getting screened for cancer and diabetes, having their cholesterol checked, and we’re able to monitor and manage their chronic conditions. Healthy adults take fewer sick days, maximizing their ability to provide for their families and power the state’s economy.

Everyone knows it’s better to prevent illness than treat sickness, and that is why all eight of the Hospital Council’s Monterey Bay Area hospitals are working together to protect the gains we’ve made to help people get insured. Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Dominican Hospital, George L. Mee Memorial Hospital, Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, Natividad Medical Center, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center of Santa Cruz, and Watsonville Community Hospital are on the front lines of health care, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We welcome all patients regardless of their ability to pay, ethnicity, language or immigration status. Nobody is ever turned away from a hospital. No one should ever be afraid to seek care.

But we can’t do it alone. Health care providers are part of a team that includes patients and community leaders working together to develop local solutions that ensure we protect peoples’ access to quality care throughout the region. California’s steadfast commitment to providing access to world-class health care illustrates our values and should be the American standard. We are proud of this commitment and want everyone throughout the Monterey Bay region to know that helping people will always be our priority.

As elected leaders in Washington, D.C. continue to write the next chapter in health care reform, Monterey Bay can be confident knowing that hospital representatives are vigilant, active and unified in our focus on preserving access to health care coverage for everyone.


Audra Earle is Chief Executive Officer of Watsonville Community Hospital. Stephen Gray is Chief Administrative Officer of Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center of Santa Cruz. Nanette Mickiewicz, M.D. is President and CEO of Dominican Hospital Santa Cruz. Their opinions are their own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.

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