Ask the Expert Ninez

Ninez Ponce is the director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and principal investigator of the California Health Interview Survey. Ponce organized events in Sacramento and Los Angeles for the recent E. Richard Brown Symposium on Universal Health Care, which she discusses in this brief interview.  

Q:  What was the impetus behind the universal health care symposium? 

E. Richard Brown, who founded the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research 25 years ago, waged a lifelong battle for a health system that would provide universal health care and believed that the smart design of such a system be informed by good data and sound research evidence. To this end, Dr. Brown launched the California Health Interview Survey — a population health survey that has tracked the state’s report card on health coverage since 2001.     

Rick’s widow, Marianne Brown, approached me a few years ago to honor Rick. Honoring Rick’s legacy on health policy in California, this symposium’s topic is so timely — universal health care in California. Rick would be thrilled that we presented a program of esteemed international and California speakers, moderators and other participants to outline possible system designs, policy proposals that inform discussions currently taking place in the legislature and governor’s office on universal coverage.  

Q: You had the E. Richard Brown Symposium in two different locations. Did you have different goals for each? 

Yes. In Sacramento, our goal was to inform the decisionmakers at the state policy level — legislators, regulators, chief administrators and their staff. We are grateful Dr. Richard Pan, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, for sponsoring our briefing at the Capitol. At a kick-off reception for the event, we were honored by the presence of Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and Assemblymember Jim Wood, the chair of Assembly Health Committee.   

In Los Angeles, our goal was to bring the world to the UCLA community. With our speakers — Joseph Kutzin from the World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva; Raisa Deber from University of Toronto; and Tsung-Mei Cheng from Princeton University, who is an expert on the Taiwan system — our UCLA students learned about different models and paths to universal coverage from around the world. After the presentations, students had the opportunity to engage in small-group roundtable discussions with faculty and our invited speakers.  

Q: This symposium launched the 25th anniversary of the Center — what other events are on tap? 

We will continue the conversation by producing a report from the E. Richard Brown Symposium with key insights and recommendations for a research agenda to ensure implementation of universal coverage, and we will host a series of seminars throughout the year, starting with a spring seminar. Then we’ll culminate with a gala celebration in late fall.