July 21, 2024
You are here:  Home  >  Regions  >  Central Coast  >  Current Article

Economic summit in Santa Maria focuses on challenges


Sacramento Bee journalist Dan Walters told a crowd of more than 300 people on Friday that liberals need to stop fretting over Donald Trump and realize that most of the problems choking California existed before 2017.

“California has a lot of issues that need to be resolved,” Walters said at the UC Santa Barbara North Santa Barbara County Economic Summit at the Radisson in Santa Maria. “Most of it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.”

Walters said California faces four major challenges: A lack of new housing, fights over water and land, increased traffic congestion and an uneducated generation that can’t compete in the global workforce.

“We’re not doing what we need to do for education,” Walters said. “We’re not seeing at-risk kids getting better. It’s shameful.”

Walters spoke before a room full of business leaders who received a copy of the 130-page UCSB Economic Forecast Project report for 2017.

The event also featured health care professionals, including Ron Werft, president and CEO of Cottage Health; Chuck Cova, senior vice president of operations for Dignity Health; Bob Freeman, CEO of CenCal Health; and Naishadh Buch, Chief Operations Officer of Lompoc Valley Medical Center. Peter Rupert, executive director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project and economics professor at UCSB, also spoke.

The speakers agreed that repealing President Obama’s Affordable Care Act would have significant impacts on the working and non-working poor.

“This population has clearly benefitted from having regular access to health care,” Freeman said.

Thousands of people who could not get health insurance before the ACA passed now have doctors they can see for preventive care, which reduces the amount of people who use emergency departments as their first line of medical care.

Freeman said “people have a doctor now,” but “if the ACA is repealed, all bets are off.”

Werft said going to the doctor prevents ER visits.

“It would just be a shame to see us lose this level of coverage,” Werft said.

The panelists also talked about health care reform in Goleta and the possibility of a single-payer system. Werft said that insurers and the private sector are paying an inordinate amount of the costs of health care and that “we need to rethink” the employer-sponsored model.

“To get from here to there would involve increasing the amount individuals pay,” Werft said.

Walters said California spends $300 billion a year on health care and that a single-payer model could work, but it won’t.

“In political reality, it’s probably not going to happen,” Walters said.

Rupert summed up the future of the region’s economic status.

“The world is still awash in uncertainty,” Rupert said.

• Contact Joshua Molina at jmolina@pacbiztimes.com.