By Randy Villegas
Residents of Kern County packed a theater room at Maya Cinemas last Thursday to watch “¡Salud! Yes, Please!,” a new documentary with a comedic twist. This film looked closely at an important and challenging topic – the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion and what lies ahead. Sponsored by the California Endowment, the film follows Latina comedian Grace Parra as she travels throughout California and D.C. meeting various activists, legislators, and real life everyday people who have benefited from the ACA, and stand to lose coverage if it’s repealed.
Breaking down terms like Medicaid and Medi-Cal and what the differences are, the film introduced our healthcare system as it stands today, with the complexities of different state by state funding, and laws. A distressed Parra tries to navigate and understand the health care system, first speaking to experts within the healthcare industry and then meeting with legislators on both sides of the aisles. Meeting with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin Deleon, Parra learned about how California insured more people than any other state in the nation, even covering undocumented children up to the age of 18.
One young man from California named Gerson Cortes was able to qualify for the care that would save his life. A DACA Recipient (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Gerson was diagnosed with an incurable diagnosis of leukemia. Because he lives in California, Gerson was able to qualify for Medi-Cal. With bills over $5,000 a month, Gerson stated that he wouldn’t be able to survive without Medical Insurance.
One of the stories from the documentary came from none other than local activist and Bakersfield Native Julie Ortero. As she appeared in the film a round of applause broke out in the theatre. As a local caretaker for the disabled, Julie herself battles a chronic illness that does not let her breathe without constantly being attached to her oxygen machine. “I am standing here today because I saw a window when Obamacare came through. It saved my life,” Julie said. “For me it’s not politics. For me it’s life. It’s my life. My grandchildren want to see their grandmother”.
When Parra asked Julie whether she had a “Plan B” for her healthcare, Julie responded: “What Plan can I make? I have a decision to make. Pay the rent and live under a roof, or buy my medicine for one week to save my life, and see what I can come up with the next week”.
After the film concluded, audience members broke out into applause. “I wasn’t expecting it to have a comedic element, but I enjoyed that it had its moment where you were able to laugh. I think that’s what you need at times,” said attendee Ana Cornejo.
“I do think healthcare is a human right. It should be universal and a fundamental right for everyone to have health care,” she added.
Audience members were then able to watch a panel discussion and participate in a Q&A with the film’s stars including Grace Parra, Julie Ortero, and local Organizer with the Dolores Huerta Foundation Moises Duran. “I wasn’t expecting it to have a comedic element, but I enjoyed that it had its moment where you were able to laugh. I think that’s what you need at times,” said attendee Ana Cornejo.
Attendee local organizer Lorena Lara spoke about her own work with healthcare for Kern County, a local coalition of various partners whose goal is to provide healthcare access to all residents [of Kern County], regardless of immigration status.
“Currently if you’re undocumented and you live in Kern County the only thing you have available are the clinics and the emergency room,” said Lara
“We know that the clinics are great, but they are not a form of preventative care. The Emergency room is also the costliest way to seek treatment,” she added. Although California does insure undocumented children up to the age of 18, many California Residents are still left without healthcare because of their undocumented status. One of the many reasons why Single Payer Advocates argue that California should have a system where everyone is included, and nobody is left behind. However, State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon recently dealt a major blow to those in favor of “Health 4 all” by shelving the proposed Single Payer Bill just last week.
Local California State Assembly member Rudy Salas was also in attendance and spoke highly of the film. “I thought it was really good. Healthcare affects everybody, regardless of your party affiliation, your race, your age, it’s something that we all need to talk about,” said Salas.
“At the California State Capitol we’ve been expanding things like Medi-Cal. Expanding coverage for children. We are doing things where people are being seen based off of their health care need, as opposed to anything else. Whether that’s documentation or any other thing that’s usually a hurdle in other states; here in California we are trying to have healthy families for a stronger community,” he added.
For those interested in watching the film, it can be watched on Univision.com Clips [not sure why Clips is capitalized unless it’s the name of the site, and if so need to provide link] and interviews of the film [filmmakers? Film star?] can also be seen at http://www.univision.com/noticias/salud-yes-please