Rep. Kim opened the conversation by noting that the strain the COVID-19 pandemic put on our health care system elicited important, albeit tough, lessons, chief among them the important role telehealth should play moving forward. “I’ve heard first-hand from providers in our district how telehealth helped medical practitioners navigate the dangers of the pandemic by reducing infection while providing treatment and medication remotely. Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that telehealth should remain a core part of health care services moving forward.” Rep. Kim caveated her support of telehealth services with the need to improve equity and access even further. She discussed her recent support of legislation – including the Ensuring Parity in Medicare Advantage and PACE for Audio-Only Telehealth Act – that work to accomplish these goals. Rep. Kim closed by sharing that, as an immigrant representing a diverse district, she is especially concerned with addressing language barriers between patients and providers. Rep. Kim said that she was looking for solutions to expand language capabilities among providers to ensure an equitable recovery from the pandemic.
Following Rep. Kim’s remarks, Allison Barnett, Senior Director of Government Affairs at Health Net of California, discussed Health Net’s work in Rep. Kim’s district and across the state. With respect to social determinants of health, she highlighted Health Net’s shift to focus on the “full spectrum” of health. “We learned we can’t address health issues by focusing on a person’s physical body alone. We have to look at their housing, their air quality, their nutrition and diet, and so many other factors,” she said. Barnett closed by sharing Health Net’s excitement to continue working with the Congresswoman and the other stakeholders in attendance to best serve Californians.
David DeLeon, Co-Executive Director of the La Habra Collaborative, highlighted his organization’s focus on three priorities: food insecurity, housing insecurity, and access to medical care. DeLeon shared his first-hand experience watching how partnerships between organizations like his and the state’s health care providers offered COVID-19 relief for Californians and improved health equity. DeLeon also echoed the Congresswoman’s support for telehealth.
Steve Pitman, Chairman of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)-Orange County, agreed with his fellow participants on the benefits of telehealth, particularly for addressing mental health needs throughout the pandemic. Pitman shared that NAMI fielded over 100,000 calls this past year listening to patients’ needs and referring those in crisis to the appropriate care. “You can’t have good physical health without good mental health,” he said. Pitman called for families and communities to be part of the conversation to address mental health and social determinants of health.
Together, all participants agreed to work together to find ways to improve health care access for Californians and all Americans.