A few short months after I took the helm as The California Wellness Foundation’s president and CEO, the results of our eighth annual Cal Wellness/Field Health Policy Survey were released. I dug into the results to get a view of what Californians are thinking and feeling about the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) implementation in our state.

Here’s my key take-away—Californians are happy with the ACA. And the percentage of bipartisan support for the ACA has risen steadily in California over the years.

I think it’s likely that the satisfaction will continue to increase as folks who have experienced tangible health benefits through the ACA share those success stories.

While other states—including my childhood home of Virginia—have opted not to expand Medicaid through the ACA, in California nearly two of three voters said that the state’s Medicaid program (Medi-Cal) is important and that it’s been successful in meeting its objectives.

This positive outlook is attributable to more than just California sunshine.

For one thing, California has a history of working across political divides on health care reform. Years before the ACA, California tried to create statewide health system reform. While reform didn’t happen then, it laid the ground work for policy makers to prioritize health care access. California health foundations have been working together since then, too.

Also, and perhaps most significantly, a robust cadre of health advocates has been central to bringing grassroots voices to the attention of policy makers. This is why Cal Wellness has a strong grant-making commitment to support public policy advocacy organizations.

All of this bodes well for the ACA’s Year Two open enrollment, which is set to begin November 15. After all, there are still uninsured people in California, especially within our multiethnic communities. Among the uninsured are as many as one million undocumented Californians, ineligible for coverage through the ACA. Cal Wellness also has a strong grant-making commitment to support these and other remaining uninsured people.

But true health requires more than just insurance coverage. People need access to high-quality health care services, a clean and safe physical environment, quality educational and employment opportunities, and a vital economy. This thinking, based on the social determinants of health, serves as the framework for our new Advancing Wellness grants program, which launched October 1.

There is no doubt that the ACA has taught us just how important public policy approaches are to addressing deeply entrenched social ills, as it is an historic opportunity to level the playing field for vulnerable people pursuing health. We hope to apply those lessons learned to other issues as we move forward Advancing Wellness.

Editor’s notes:

The 2014 Cal Wellness-Field Health Policy Survey results were shared in two news releases “Increase in California Voter Support for Affordable Care Act…” (August 19) and “Over One in Three Voters Under Age 65 Personally Visited the Covered California Website…” (August 20). Video highlights from a panel discussion, held at the California capitol, regarding the survey findings are available here.

The California Wellness Foundation’s Advancing Wellness grant-making strategy seeks to reduce health disparities and move toward health equity. Cal Wellness supports efforts to address social determinants of health and engage those working to improve the health of Californians. A detailed program description and application guidelines are available on the foundation’s website.