By Carla Rivera
Eunha Yi is 71 and has back problems. But with threatened cuts to state and federal healthcare programs, how will low-income seniors like herself cope? she asked.
It was a question that drew applause Sunday at a town hall meeting at USC that drew a packed audience of all ages eager for answers about health coverage.
"Low-income seniors don't have many assets, and affordability is a big issue for us," said Yi, a Mid-Wilshire resident who came to the meeting with a group from the Korean Resource Center, a nonprofit social service agency.
The event was hosted by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) as a forum on the implementation of President Obama's healthcare reform law and to right what Bass called misinformation about the act. Participants included California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and the regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Herb Schultz.
Bass also called on participants to rally opposition to changes, being proposed by many Congressional Republicans, to the national healthcare law.
On Friday, a federal appeals court in Atlanta struck down a major piece of the law, ruling that Congress lacks authority to require that all Americans buy health insurance. Other appeals courts have upheld the law. Bass expressed disappointment at the latest ruling, calling it part of a "concerted effort" to repeal healthcare reform.
"It gives encouragement to states trying to block implementation," Bass said. "It's incredibly shortsighted. Ultimately, I don't think they will be successful in repealing the law, but this Congress has been successful in slowing it down and trying to reduce funding."
Most in the audience supported the healthcare law, unlike the contentious town halls in the run-up to Congress' voting on the bill last year.
Some criticized the president and Democrats for not holding out for a bill that included a single-payer system.
"I'm pleased with the fact that they tried to do something, but it should have been Medicare for all," said Chuck Webb, 54, an electricians union member from West Los Angeles. He is concerned about how the new law would affect his current health plan.
Margot Reiner said she came to the town hall to learn more about how the healthcare law will be implemented in California, especially for those who have too little or no coverage.
Some aspects of the law -- for example, providing health coverage for children with pre-existing conditions -- have been in place in the state since Jan.1.
"I have no healthcare problems that are not being dealt with," said Reiner, 66, of Palms. "But having affordable healthcare is a step in the direction of bringing about a healthier society, both physical and economic health."