Surgeon Says Prop 21’s Connection Between Housing and Healthcare is a Moral Issue

Karen Ocamb News

Proposition 21 boils down to a simple issue of fairness and morality, says Chris Goring, a former lieutenant colonel in the Army who is now an orthopedic surgeon based in Pasadena. “My view on life in general is that you try to look out for your population,” he says. “If there is a situation where people can be aggressively priced out of their dwellings or simply removed for the purposes of putting up some new grand construction, that is just morally difficult feeling. That’s why I support Prop 21 where increases can’t go beyond a certain reasonable percentage. It basically boils down to fairness.”

Prop 21 is the statewide ballot measure that puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases, reins in corporate landlord greed, and prevents homelessness. Top experts at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley agree that sensible rent limits are key for stabilizing California’s housing affordability crisis. That’s why Reps. Maxine Waters, Karen Bass and Barbara Lee, the California Democratic Party, the ACLU, the California Nurses Association, Veterans Voices, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Black Lives Matter, the Los Angeles Times, LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and a slew of LGBTQ organizations and individuals — have thrown their full support behind Prop 21.

Goring, 51, started in ROTC and served in the Army from 1996 until 2009, becoming an orthopedic surgeon in 2003. He was deployed to Iraq and, as a soldier, was stationed in Germany, which had an impact on his outlook.

“Germany has a high standard of living. But you didn’t get the sense that people who didn’t have economic means would get lesser care at the hospital because they didn’t have means, or they would have less access to things because they didn’t have means. There were certain basic things that each person was eligible to get. And if you wanted something beyond that, it was reasonable to pay extra. But you had a basic established line in terms of healthcare and education that we all have,” he says.

In the United States, however, “we have somehow seduced ourselves into thinking that it’s somewhat demeaning to help people who don’t have the same means. We’ve even convinced people that it’s demeaning for them to seek to have universal healthcare coverage. I’m not sure where that comes from but it confuses me to no end,” he says.

Goring sees the same confusing attitudes regarding housing, especially now with COVID.  

“For veterans and individuals that are on a fixed income or are in a lower socioeconomic setting  — what happens to one severely affects the other,” he says. “It is not uncommon that you have one person who is the income provider and needs the surgery. The other is just as stressed because they don’t know what will happen. They may ask me, ‘When do you think I’ll be able to get back to work? If I don’t get back, I’m pretty much going to lose my home or lose my job — I’m going to lose something that is very fundamental for my existence.’ And in this time, with COVID deaths, it’s just magnified even more.”

It comes down to housing as a human right.

“One of the things that I have a lot of difficulty with in the U. S. is this sense that each person does not have a right to the best medical care that they can find and that each person doesn’t have the basic right to shelter. I think that if you’re in a setting where you’re living on a limited income and you’re just barely making ends meet, it’s somewhat unconscionable that someone could say, ‘Okay, there is no limit to my ability to increase your rent and I can do it just because it’s legal for me to do it.’ I think there’s a bit of an inhumane thought process there,” Goring says. “You have to be able to have some humane behavior in terms of how you address things. Money should not always be the thing that wins the day.”

Goring advises on keeping things simple. “If I have an injury, it should be managed the same way whether I had a dollar or I had millions of dollars,” he says. “If I am able to get to shelter and maintain it and I’m following the rules — there shouldn’t be some unique clause that allows someone to come and essentially price me out of where I am with really no option after that.”

Goring says he’s had patients to whom that has happened.

“One woman was in her late sixties. She had an apartment where they were building the new stadium and she essentially was told, ‘You’re out. You don’t have a way of discussing this. You don’t have a choice. In my view, that’s horrible. I don’t see how that can be justified — for someone who was in their sixties, seventies trying to restart again. I find that I find it very, very difficult,” he says.

“This is a human rights issue. If you fall below the economic line, then you’re going to encounter possible homelessness. If you’re above the line, then you’re able to float. And if you’re way above that line, then it never touches you. It absolutely will not occur to you because you don’t have to think of how you’re going to negotiate yourself through that system,” Goring says. “I have had more than one patient who has said during this time of COVID – ‘I have been notified that I will possibly lose my apartment. I don’t have a job because we can’t go back to work in the particular industry that I am in.’ And if the landlord has a creditor, they’re not going to think, ‘Hey, let me give you some extra time.’ And I am finding patients that are running into that.”

There should be no politics when it comes to issues of housing and healthcare, especially now, Goring says. “It should be – this is how we deal with humans. It should be as simple as that. So, if you simplify it to what it is at its most basic level — then I think you’re doing the right thing.”

And that begins with voting Yes on 21!