ICHS will remain standing strong with open arms and open doors to serve anyone who needs us

Every year, ICHS faces countless challenges in providing affordable, high quality care to our communities. This year, ICHS faces especially tough challenges because of efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, cut back Medicaid and reduce funding and programs for our communities. On Saturday, May 6, ICHS CEO Teresita Batayola addressed the audience at the 2017 Bloom Gala and delivered the following remarks:

It is always wonderful to be among friends and supporters of ICHS. Thank you so much for being here. Lori Matsukawa refers to me as the Energizer Bunny, but I can only do this work because I draw energy from all of you. Thank you to my family because they keep me normal. Thank you to all ICHS staff for serving our communities every day. But most of all, thank you to our leadership who make it possible for me to run ICHS and advocate for ICHS. Please recognize our CFO, Hermes Shahbazian, Health Services and Community Partnerships Director Michael McKee, Chief Medical Officer Anna Kaminski, Dental Director David Chen, and the glue that holds us all together, Chief Operating Officer Sherman Lohn.

Last year, we continued our trajectory of growth and innovation to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse populations who speak over 50 languages. We broadened our presence and deepened our service capacity, serving nearly 29,000 patients with approximately 55% needing interpretation. We expanded our Women, Infant and Children (WIC) and Nutrition program to all major sites, started the Young Adult Clinic in Shoreline, and are on track to open a vision clinic this year. We continue to make progress on a Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly.

Our staff has grown to 495 and we are increasing our efforts to develop staff that have the passion, commitment and cultural skills to serve our communities. Our family practice residency with Swedish Medical Center is entering its second year, our dental residency with the national Advanced Education in General Dentistry program will start its third round of residents this summer, and our ICHS-developed nurse practitioner residency program will welcome its fourth class this fall. Our goal is to develop employees at all levels, while working on a pipeline of workers from the communities we serve.

We do all this to meet our vision of healthy people, stronger families and vibrant communities.

But it’s not business as usual for ICHS. Until last year, our rallying cause was health care for all, advocating expansion to those who were not included in the Affordable Care Act. Or, dare I say it, Obamacare.

As a non-profit, ICHS has to be non-partisan. But being non-partisan does not mean being mute. We must act on issues that matter the most to our communities, our patients, our volunteers and our staff. ICHS is a community trust born of founders like Uncle Bob Santos and numerous others including Dr. Allen Muramoto, who saw the basic, aching need for health care in our community. They scraped together resources and pulled together volunteers to serve our elders and to advocate for their right to be served.

Today, our community’s trust in ICHS mandates a larger responsibility to speak, act and fight against diminishing our gains in health care.

We must speak when those with existing illnesses or pre-existing conditions lose guaranteed affordable and comprehensive health care coverage.

We must act when older people can be charged up to five times more than younger people.

We must fight when states can decide not to cover essential benefits like doctor visits, maternity and prenatal care, hospitalization, prescriptions, mental health, ambulance rides… and the list continues of potential opt-outs.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ hurried passage of the American Health Care Act (ACHA) did not have the benefit of the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis. But we know that this bill is built on the original version that rolls back Medicaid and subsidized health plans for the working poor; that 24 million nationally stand to lose coverage within a decade. Up to 100,000 Washingtonians risk losing their private health care insurance and another 600,000 risk losing their coverage under Apple Health, our state Medicaid program. Six thousand ICHS patients are in jeopardy because they got covered when Medicaid was expanded to include families and individuals who earn low wages — a family of four making less than $40,000 a year or an individual who earns less than $17,000 a year. An additional 2,200 ICHS patients will no longer be able to afford insurance coverage because they will lose medical subsidies and tax credits. The many changes also include a cap on the federal share of Medicaid coverage. Oh, by the way, you might be interested to hear that there are $600 billion in tax breaks to the wealthy in this bill.

We are fortunate to be in a state that believes in taking care of its low income, uninsured and under-insured residents. But the state will potentially lose $1.4 billion a year if the U.S. Senate adopts what the U.S. House passed. Losing this funding means the state will have to make health care cuts for its most vulnerable populations.

When AHCA was pulled back from a vote in early March, many pronounced it dead. But two days ago, AHCA lived. It did not rise from the ashes like a phoenix but a zombie, an undead created at the cost of human lives. Many say that it will have a tough time in the Senate, it will take a long time to get a vote and that it will be much altered for the better.

Never underestimate the determination of those who push back against health care as a right. They are counting on us to be too tired of too many fights, to be too cynical, too quick to dismiss them as crazy, maybe even too wishful of moving to Canada…

ICHS believes in healthcare as a human right. As amazing and fierce as Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are — they need all of us to succeed against AHCA. We must find a way to refresh ourselves and persevere. We cannot stop. Let’s keep our attention on those the poor, elderly, women and many more at risk. Protest and act in all ways — marches, social media, emails, letters, phone calls to our senators but especially reach out to your families, friends and networks in other states to do the same and make an impact on their U.S. senators. AHCA is a line of defense we must win!

Because it isn’t just about health care. Executive orders, administrative actions, budgets, legislation and hate speech and actions target immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, LGBT, poor people, labor…  Women are the target of choice right now. But when a database of registry and internment camps based on religious or ethnic heritage are linked, throw Asians and Pacific Islanders on that list. The president himself told Time magazine that he does not know whether he would have supported or opposed the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Few are exempt.

Our values of embracing and accepting everyone must anchor us. We must speak, act, resist, insist and persist! We must stand together, support each other, and when one is tired, help raise each other up.

We are all here tonight to help meet a simple need – supporting those who cannot afford health care. Raising your paddle tonight might feel like a narrow action but it is meaningful. ICHS’ uninsured rate went down from 30% to 11% under the Affordable Care Act. But that’s still over 3,000 patients we cared for who did not have insurance or whose insurance was only for catastrophic health crisis.  We have to fund $1.3 million dollars’ worth of care. Please be generous.

My promise to you, now and far into the future, ICHS will remain standing strong with open arms and open doors to serve anyone who needs us with affordable, high quality care. All are welcome. All are served.