Health and Human Services regional director reports progress in California
Melissa Stafford Jones has overseen the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, despite ongoing court battles and political skirmishes surrounding Obamacare. The results? The regional director of Health and Human Services reports in the October Pulse podcast that 16 million Americans have gained coverage under the new law, 1.4 million of them in California alone.
“Not only has coverage expanded but health care is becoming more affordable,” Stafford Jones says, with 2014 marking the lowest level of growth in health care cost increases in more than 50 years. The quality of healthcare delivery is also improving, with reductions in hospital infection rates and dramatic reductions in hospital readmissions, a national trend in which Stafford Jones says, “San Diego is leading the way.”
As a biology major in college, Stafford Jones remembers paging through a book of graduate degrees in the library and having an “aha moment” that a master’s in public health would enable her to “study health care from the broad population and community perspective.” Stafford Jones believes it’s vitally important for policy makers to have experience and be “grounded in health care operations, the delivery of care on the ground.”
Reporting to Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, the regional director loves that her job involves a lot of travel, on-site visits, and two-way communication, sharing with policy makers and program initiators the real life experiences she sees in the field. Her biggest source of pride? The expansion of the safety net for low-income people that the federal law has made possible, reducing the uninsured rate from its high of 18 percent to 11.4 percent in 2015.
Hear more about federal health care policy innovations in this month’s podcast. After the Debate: Carrying Out Obamacare with Melissa Stafford Jones
To listen to previous episodes of the Pulse, visit our archives page on UCTV’s Career Channel.