By Ramin Rajaii
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
Louise McCarthy MPP ’04 is making waves in the vast sea of healthcare reform.
She is currently the President & CEO of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County (CCALAC), where she represents the interests of L.A.-area community clinics and health centers and those they serve.
Following graduation from UCLA’s Public Policy program, McCarthy was the assistant director of policy for the California Primary Care Association, where she worked on statewide legislative, regulatory and administrative issues impacting California’s community clinics and health centers.
There, she contributed to Governor Schwarzenegger’s state health reform initiative.
“Unfortunately, the [Governor’s] initiative failed due a budget stalemate,” explained McCarthy. “We needed a majority vote to pass the budget, but partisan disagreements prevented the bill from passing.”
Although she felt periods of frustration in translating policy to reality, McCarthy was simultaneously inspired to move forward by those whose lives were dramatically changed by similar work.
“I met someone whose vision was rescued,” described McCarthy of such an instance.
“My friend’s husband, who was uninsured and diabetic, seriously needed services. He was losing his vision. As a result of enrolling in Healthy Way LA [an expansion of MediCal as part of the Affordable Care Act], he was able to receive crucially needed surgeries, access to affordable primary care at the Venice Family Clinic, and now he is seeing again and working.”
Experiences such as this inspired McCarthy’s transition from focusing on workers’ compensation reform for her MPP at UCLA to entering healthcare reform at the CCALAC.
But how does she explain the seemingly unrelated transition?
“Job creation that happens through community clinics cannot be understated,” explained McCarthy. “I can create purchasing power in communities, train people on-site to do work and improve their skills.”
“I see my work with community clinics to be a natural outcropping of small businesses. What I enjoy is representing small non-profit businesses – which is precisely what I can achieve through the CCALAC.”
Her main responsibilities involve more than simple advocacy. She provides training and technical assistance to clinics, with the key focus of ensuring that all community health centers are ready for reforms associated with the Affordable Care Act.
At the CCALAC, McCarthy represents fifty organizations that serve over 1 million combined patients each year. The vast majority of them are uninsured.
Additionally, McCarthy serves on the boards of the L.A. Care Health Plan, the California Primary Care Association, the California Family Health Council and the Workforce Investment Board of the City of Los Angeles.
All in all, McCarthy has realized her passion for community healthcare change.
“The work we’re doing now is wonderful and exciting. Most notably, it’s great to work with a constituency. We are the voice of great organizations that are doing the work; it is incredibly satisfying to handle policy for those who are implementing it on the ground.”