Now in his second term representing West Philadelphia’s 188th legislative district, state Rep. Rick Krajewski continues to focus on some of the city’s most vulnerable populations. As secretary of the House Children & Youth Committee and chair of the House Health Committee’s subcommittee on Healthcare in this legislative session, Krajewski has maintained priorities related to his campaign promises to fight for affordable care and healthy housing for all.
Krajewski, one of the keynote speakers of City & State’s Greater Philadelphia Healthcare Summit, spoke with us to preview Wednesday’s summit and to offer insight on solutions for the region’s elder care crisis, innovations in primary care delivery and more.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
What are some of the health care challenges you hear about most often from your constituents?
I think the biggest thing is accessibility and affordability. I believe health care is a human right and, unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who cannot access that right – whether it’s because of not being able to access employer insurance or just rising medical debt and rising cost of care … care should be accessible to everyone. I personally believe that health care should be free of cost and I know that there’s a lot of work that needs to go into engaging the world like that. But I think a health care system that is largely based on your employment is not a system that makes sure that we prioritize access for all people.
Are there any specific policy points that you’d like to pursue along those lines?
The main one is access to care. We have people who just don’t go to the doctor because it’s too expensive, they have a high deductible, they’re uninsured or they’re underinsured. You have a lot of people who are gambling with their well-being because it’s less expensive. Whatever we can do to make care more affordable and make insurance more accessible is a main priority.
The first panel of the summit is themed “Health Care for All.” How does equity come into play – not just in the care setting itself, but also in getting access to care as you mentioned?
I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we have a health care system that’s largely based on a market system, a system that supports most people out there through your employer. If you’re unemployed, as we’ve recently seen since the pandemic, or you’re underinsured, you’re really not left with a lot of options. That disproportionately affects working-class people, poorer people and Black and Brown people – people that need that care the most not just on the physical side but also in emotional and mental care. Mental health is something we’re seeing more of a spotlight on but I think doing more to make emotional well-being and mental health care accessible to people is super important … I receive mental care and I pay out of pocket. There are a lot of people who can’t afford to foot that bill but deserve access to care.
That leads me to the second panel, which is themed around “Community Engagement with Aging and Vulnerable Populations.” What resources exist and what needs to be better utilized in the policy space, and how could providers better engage with these vulnerable communities that often are hard to reach or get in contact with?
Honestly, one of the things I see a lot when it comes to the aging population is health care but also wraparound services such as housing. I have a lot of people come to my office who are seniors who are looking for more security. We have a lot of assisted living spaces that are designated for elders and seniors but I don’t think we have enough. I also don’t think we have enough housing, specifically affordable housing, that seniors and our elders can apply for. Obviously, assisted care environments are one option, but they’re also seniors who are just looking for regular affordable housing.
What kind of takeaways do you hope to see from the summit overall? Specifically, what do you hope to get out of these types of conversations, and for someone who has never attended these types of panel discussions, what could they expect to take away from the event?
I hope that we can get on the same page about how to change our health care system to make it something that’s more accessible for everyone. Secondarily, I think for someone who’s attending the summit, I would just say to have an open mind, ask questions and be sure to network.
For details and ticket information on the Greater Philadelphia Healthcare Summit, visit City & State’s events page.
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