September 09, 2021

By Congressmember Karen Bass


At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew our communities would be the hardest hit -- and when we fought to ensure resources were made available to fight the virus, we had to make sure that assistance made it to our communities.

When vaccines began to roll out, we knew that we would need a full-court press to ensure that our communities had access to these life-saving shots. Even with our efforts, we’re still not where we need to be. Unvaccinated African Americans and other people of color are seeing steep rises in infections and hospitalization from COVID-19.

We’ve read this script before – and lived it. When hard times befall America, people of color and lower income folks generally are disproportionately impacted.

In the case of COVID-19, the only way to change this story is to get vaccinated.

I understand hesitancy. Our country’s history is full of incidents where Black people were unfairly, unethically, and some might argue criminally treated by the medical system.

I, too, was hesitant to get vaccinated at first because I thought the whole thing was rushed. But when I investigated it a bit more and consulted medical professionals, I found that the vaccine trials were rigorously controlled and though this variant of the virus is new, the COVID virus have been with us for years and research on the virus has been ongoing for more than a decade.

On top of that, one of the most effective vaccines was developed with the help of a young African American immunologist at the National Institute of Health, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett.

The long and short of it is, we need to get vaccinated.

As you read this, Black elected officials at every level of government – in Congress, in the State House, at the county level and on the city council – are coming together to ensure that our folks have correct information about the shot and can easily access it.

That doesn’t mean you need to come to us – we’re going to come to you. We’re continuing grassroots door to door efforts, hosting pop up vaccination tents at neighborhood events, and more to ensure that this pandemic is finally ended.

Don’t believe the hype. The vaccines are scientifically proven safe and effective and will protect you from this virus. That’s not all you need to do to stay healthy, though. We want you to stay well. For that, you need coverage.

Right now, Covered California, the state agency that administers the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – is offering health insurance that is high quality and low-cost to tens of thousands of Southern Californians.

Residents who were previously shut out of health insurance and the often life-saving medical and mental health care it provides because monthly premiums were too high can now get more financial assistance than ever before thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the economic stimulus and virus-fighting legislation that my Democratic colleagues and I passed so that President Biden could sign it into law.

The American Rescue Plan provides the most significant savings for consumers since the Affordable Care Act began, but in order for many people to make the most of those savings, they need to act as soon as possible. Covered California estimates the new financial assistance can directly help 2.5 million Californians — including more than 1.1 million people in Los Angeles County.

The most recent data from Covered California shows that 740,000 of its 1.6 million enrollees are signed up in quality plans that cost $1 per month.

Health care is personal to me. As a former hospital emergency room Physician Assistant, I saw first-hand how a lack of health insurance prevented people from getting quality and critical medical care. When people don’t come to the hospital because they aren’t covered or can’t afford the care they need, they wait until it’s too late to get life-saving help.

Your health and our community’s wellness can not wait.

So please get vaccinated and if you don’t have health coverage, sign up for health insurance through Covered California today.

Together, we can get healthy and stay healthy.

Category: Opinion