By Steven Lalich Originally Appeared in The Ventura County Star

Nearly 150 seniors, caregivers and health care professionals from Ventura County and the greater Los Angeles area turned out for a seniors’ health and safety event on March 3 at the Ventura County Office of Education in Camarillo.

Gold Coast Health Plan, a co-sponsor of the Congress of California Seniors’ Health and Safety Forum, “We’ve Got Your Back, Seniors,” participated in the event, which focused on today’s changing health care environment and ways to protect seniors from fraud, violence and domestic abuse.

Keynote speakers included U.S. Congresswoman Julia Brownley and California Assemblywoman Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara).

Gold Coast Health Plan’s chief operating officer, Ruth Watson, an industry veteran with more than 20 years of executive management experience in commercial, Medicare and Medi-Cal operations management, represented the Plan at the forum. Joined by experts from the Ventura County Healthcare Agency, Clinicas del Camino Real Inc., Los Robles Medical Center and St. John’s Regional Medical Center, Watson provided her unique perspective on health care issues facing seniors.

“Gold Coast Health Plan is thrilled to have participated and been a co-sponsor of this event. As our senior population in Ventura County continues to grow, so does the need for quality health care,” she said.

Brownley addressed the crowd. “I firmly believe we measure the strength of our country by how we treat our older Americans. We are a country that stands up for our seniors. From Social Security, to Medicare, to the Affordable Care Act.”

“The twin promises of Medicare and Social Security have saved millions from poverty and strengthened families across our great nation,” she said.

The congresswoman stressed the need to look for new ways to provide access to health care for older Americans and singled out the Affordable Care Act as an example. She credited the legislation with improving Medicare’s financial outlook by slowing the growth of spending and reducing waste and fraud. These savings are being reinvested into Medicare and have prolonged the solvency of the Medicare trust fund for an additional decade.

Speaking of repeal-and-replace legislation coming out of Washington from Republicans, Brownley said, “It has been hard to keep up with all the talk. It’s amazing what has been happening. We want stability and security in our health care. We do not want chaos.”

Limón echoed the congresswoman’s sentiments and shared her thoughts as a member of the state’s health committee. She detailed the many issues facing California seniors and sounded a reassuring tone while discussing Medi-Cal and threats to the Affordable Care Act.

“The Affordable Care Act stimulated Medi-Cal expansion and enrollment in the state. As a result, the cost of Med-Cal is increasing and while there are financial reserves in California currently, it doesn’t mean they’ll last forever,” Limón said.

Noting that California, unlike other states, is more progressive in its approach to health care, she added, “Rest assured, the Legislature will continue to fund the best health-care alternatives for our state, for our community and our residents.”

The Ventura County Star’s content strategist, Darrin Peschka, moderated a breakout discussion on fraud, abuse and domestic violence targeting seniors. Panelists included Ventura County Assistant District Attorney Jan Maurizi and Assistant Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub.

Gold Coast Health Plan’s Care Management and Health Education/Outreach Departments organized a health fair where a variety of Medicare and Medi-Cal information was distributed to attendees.

Congress of California Seniors President Hank Lacayo closed the event by thanking everyone who participated.

“Seniors are vulnerable to fraud and abuse,” he said. “That’s why we’ve asked our partners in health care and law enforcement to make sure seniors know we’ve got their backs in these changing times.”