Elk Grove Citizen

State Sen. Pan Challenges Trump on Healthcare

January 27, 2017

By Lance Armstrong

Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20 spoke to the Citizen about President Donald Trump’s views on healthcare.

Pan, whose district includes Elk Grove, noted that as a supporter of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he is concerned about the future of the national healthcare system under the new presidency.

“(Trump) is going out saying, ‘I have a fantastic (healthcare) plan and I’m going to cover everybody,” he said. “Great. That makes me feel good. I want to see the details.”

The senator, who also works as a pediatrician, emphasized the need to have a new plan in place before repealing the current plan.

“Actually there’s a movement in Washington to say, ‘Look, we can’t just repeal it and replace it,” he said. “We actually need to know what the replacement is before we repeal it.

“Even the health insurance companies have said, ‘If you repeal it and don’t have a replacement, because of the uncertainty, we’re pulling out of the market. It’s going to collapse on its own, if there isn’t a replacement already there.’”

Pan added that the benefits of the Affordable Care Act are a reduction in the number of uninsured in the state of California “by a little over half,” and a decrease in the rise in health insurance premiums.

Pan was also critical about the president’s comments regarding health care for people with preexisting conditions.

“We know that because of the ACA, people that had preexisting conditions were able to get health insurance coverage,” he said.

“Trump says he doesn’t want to get rid of the ban on preexisting conditions, but if you keep (that ban), you need to keep the insurance mandate, which he says he wants to get rid of, and those two go together,” he said. “You can’t take them apart, because when you take them apart, people won’t buy the insurance until they get sick. And then they’ll really jack up all the rates.”

Pan said that he is also concerned about vaccination related inquiries made by Trump that “are not reflective of the science.”

The New York Times on Jan. 10 reported that Trump asked the “prominent anti-vaccine crusader” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to lead a government commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity. The commission would challenge the medical community’s stances regarding childhood vaccines and conditions such as autism.

“When the president tries to lend credence to misinformation about vaccines, it erodes public confidence in vaccines,” he said. “Those statements may discourage people from getting their children vaccinated,” he said. “Now why is that important? Well, it’s important because when you vaccinate your child, you’re not only protecting your own child, you’re protecting other people who are around.”

The senator added that it was with this approach that he authored Senate Bill 277, which eliminated the personal belief exemption for parents who chose to opt their child out of school vaccine requirements. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in 2015.

Pan noted that fewer vaccinations lead to a decrease in “community immunity.”

“What happens is that when you have enough people who are unvaccinated, that actually accelerates the spread of these diseases,” he said. “Let’s just take measles, for example. If you don’t get vaccinated and you get exposed, you have a 90 percent chance of catching the disease. If you are fully vaccinated, essentially you are about 98 percent (safe from catching the disease).”

Pan further expressed his concerns about vaccine related statements made by Trump.

“The question is how many people have to get sick or even die before that confidence (in vaccines) is restored?” he said. “It will be restored at some point when we have a big enough outbreak and people realize what the consequences are. Vaccines are so effective that often it takes years before you get to that point.

“So, if the president wants to erode confidence in vaccinations and continue to accumulate more unvaccinated people, eventually, yes, there will be an outbreak. It will spread, and people will go, ‘Oh, my God, this is not a benign disease.’”

Pan was asked whether he believes Trump might change his mind regarding vaccines.

“I hope so,” he responded. “I don’t know what he truly believes. Is this more of a political move to try to garner support from people who for them it’s a top issue, that have been misguided, or is this something he really believes in?”