As an emergency room doctor, Assemblymember Arambula saw the best and worst of what happens in our health care system. He served with talented physicians, nurses, and other medical staff who made critical decisions that often saved lives.
But he also saw what happens when patients cannot afford the health care that would restore their well-being, spare them incredible financial and emotional hardship, and allow them to live with dignity.
These disparities compelled him to seek public office and fight to make a difference. Since his election in 2016, he has championed legislation that expands access to health care services, pushes for more efficiency and ensures transparency. Since 2017, he has served as Chair of Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services, which oversees one-third of the State’s annual budget, as well as serving as a member of the Assembly Health and Assembly Human Services committees.
Assemblymember Arambula believes the State has a long way to go to improve access and equity in California’s health care system but that there has been important progress made.
In 2022, a major breakthrough was achieved. For years, he and determined health and immigration advocates fought to expand full scope Medi-Cal access to income-eligible adults ages 26 to 49, regardless of immigration status. The State budget now includes funding to cover this group, the final age group to gain such coverage. In previous years, successful efforts by advocates obtained this coverage for children, then young adults up to age 26, and then the inclusion of seniors (which was championed by State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles).
This was an important development. The COVID-19 pandemic cast a harsh spotlight on the inequities in the State’s health care system and showed why access to health care is so vital -- the virus disproportionately killed and struck Latinos, other ethnic minorities, and people living in disadvantaged communities.
In a related issue, Assemblymember Arambula introduced Assembly Bill 4 for the 2019 legislative session. Known as the “Health4All” bill, it would put into law the budget expansion of full scope Medi-Cal for all adults, including undocumented adults. He, along with esteemed advocates, continue to fight for AB 4.
On other fronts, he has successfully authored legislation that have become State law.
For example, he’s deeply concerned about the critical shortage of doctors and medical professionals in the Central Valley, and authored AB 422 to help address it. AB 422 made permanent Fresno State’s ability to award doctorate of nursing degrees, and it allows other California State University campuses to do so.
Assemblymember Arambula also authored AB 2311 for the UCLA International Medical Graduate Program, which is a leading producer of family medicine physicians, especially those who are bilingual and can work in poor and underserved communities.
He has strived to address health care in other areas, such as the opioid crisis that has gripped our nation. He authored AB 1048, which gives pharmacists a more discerning role in dispensing and tracking opioid prescriptions, while maintaining a doctor’s ability to provide appropriate care to patients. This law also eliminates the requirement that pain be assessed as a vital sign. The goal is to help reduce the amount of opioids in our communities.
In the most recent legislative sessions, Assemblymember Arambula successfully authored bills to improve health and mental health services. In the 2021 session, for example, his bills included AB 451, which removes barriers in the law to ensure that an individual seeking emergency psychiatric services has timely access to additional care and services. Another example was AB 690, which addresses the shortage of mental health providers by clarifying settings that unlicensed behavioral health clinicians will be allowed to practice.
In 2022, he successfully advocated for AB 2420 that focuses on the effects of extreme heat on perinatal health (both maternal and infant) by establishing a workgroup that delivers a report for the State Legislature in considering new or expanded programs to address the issue. Another bill, AB 2480, creates a pilot program to provide transitional services for recently blind individuals or recently visually impaired to be able to regain the ability to live independently. A third bill, AB 2724, makes it easier for low-income Californians to go directly to providers for health care and eliminating confusing bureaucracy while increasing accountability and transparency in the Medi-Cal program.
His work also includes other platforms to improve health care in California. In 2018, for example, he was honored to serve as co-chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage. This work included accepting an essential report called “A Path to Universal Coverage and Unified Health Care Financing in California.” It identified short and long-term approaches to the federal Affordable Care Act.
Health care always will be a priority for Assemblymember Arambula, to achieve equity and access for everyone who calls The Golden State home and seeks a better, healthier future.