As the American Health Care Act, which was the GOP bill option to repeal the Affordable Care Act was pulled from consideration for vote last week; community health advocates and legislators in the state voiced a cautious relief as access to health care for millions of Californians is not longer at risk, at least for now.
“While this is a moment to savor, we must remain vigilant against future attacks. Even if they can’t repeal the ACA outright, they will use any means possible, including Administrative action, to undermine the law,” said Senator Ed Hernández, D-West Covina, in a statement.
“Millions of Californians can breath a sigh of relief, for now, that their coverage will continue and their benefits will not be cut,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Pulling this disastrous bill to cut and cap Medicaid and ACA coverage was the only real choice, given the opposition by doctor, hospital, patient and senior groups, health policy experts across the political spectrum, strong majorities of the public in every poll, a bipartisan group of Governors and Senators, and a growing number of House Republicans.”
“It is immoral and irresponsible to even propose to roll back coverage for millions, raise cost-sharing for consumers, and blow gigantic holes in the budget of California and other states.” Wright said.
The independent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office on the AHCA or TrumpCare showed that approximately 24 millions people would have ended up uninsured under the GOP health plan within a decade.
“Unlike the Affordable Care Act (ACA), TrumpCare would take away health care coverage from millions of Americans, especially low-income and working Americans, while giving huge tax breaks for the wealthy,” said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi. “I am proud to support the ACA, which provides healthcare for millions of uninsured Americans.”
“The Republican effort to strip health coverage from millions of Americans failed,” said Hernández, who is also chairman of the senate health committee. “This is a historic victory for the health and well-being of the American people and the direct result of all of the marches, demonstrations, town halls, letters and phone calls.”
Last week, the state’s Assembly Health Committee and the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services held a joint informational hearing on March 22 at Fresno City Hall to look at the impacts of the GOP’s health care proposal would have on families in the Central Valley.
In the Central Valley, half of its population has health coverage through Medi-Cal. In Fresno County 50 percent of the population are covered in Medi-Cal while in Tulare County the percentage of the population with Medi-Cal health coverage is 55 percent.
The hearing was scheduled on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the signing of the ACA also known as Obamacare.
The hearing also took place the day before the scheduled vote on the new GOP health care plan which would have dramatically changed the health care delivery system in the county and affecting at least 24 million people leaving them uninsured. The vote was delayed one day before it was completely pulled from consideration for a vote on Friday.
During the Fresno’s hearing, chairman of the Health Committee Assemblymember Dr. Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg and chairman of the budget subcommittee Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arámbula, D-Fresno, listed to local and state experts about the impacts and repercussions of the GOP’s bill in the Valley.
Also last week Planned Parenthood supporters in Kings, Kern, Fresno and Tulare Counties rallied on Friday outside of Congressman David Valadao, R-Hanford, office in downtown Hanford to encourage Valadao to do the right thing and vote no on the ACHA.
“Women are not going to forget that a group of male elected officials met in the White House to negotiate away maternity care and women’s health in an effort to pass the worst bill for women’s health in a generation,” said Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood in a statement.
Laguens said Planned Parenthood supporters “will keep calling their representatives to let them know that women’s health and rights are not negotiable.”
After the AHCA was pulled from consideration for vote on Friday, in a statement Valadao said “our healthcare system is incredibly complex and the surrounding debate is politically charged. I commend both President Trump and Speaker Ryan for their willingness to undertake such a difficult issue.”
Valadao also said Congress “must come together to enact legislation to stabilize our healthcare market, reduce federal spending, and ensure we are able to maintain access to healthcare for America’s most vulnerable populations.
“Any potential solution must be thoughtfully considered. I stand willing and ready to discuss, negotiate, and enact responsible policies for my constituents in California’s Central Valley,” he said.
SEIU Local 2015 president Laphonza Butler said last week’s victory “belongs to the seniors, hard-working families, health care providers and everyday Americans who showed up for each other and our communities and fought for our lives, our health, and our dignity.”
Butler said “the GOP made it clear that their so-called ‘health’ plan had nothing to do with health, as maternity services, children’s check-ups, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions were stripped from their proposal.”
And under the Republican AHCA proposal between 4 to 5 millions California residents would had been impacted with the repeal of the ACA.
“Here in California, we will continue working to improve the law and ensure its continued success,” Hernández said.
The GOP plan would had also cap overall Medi-Cal in the state which would force cuts of tens of billions of dollars and rationing care for 14 million Californians.
In California, Medi-Cal, the state program for Medicaid, is a crucial program that covers a third of California’s population, including more than half of children and two-thirds of nursing home residents.
Members of the California Children’s Health Coalition said they were relieved that Congress stopped the effort to dismantle and cut California children’s main source of health insurance, Medicaid also know as Medi-Cal.
The Coalition is comprised of California Coverage & Health Initiatives, Children Now, Children’s Defense Fund-California, PICO California, The Children’s Partnership, and United Ways of California.
“It was the right thing to do to pull AHCA from a vote on the House floor. The bill would have reduced coverage for millions of California children and shifted massive costs to states,” said Mayra E. Alvarez, President of The Children’s Partnership. “We call on all our elected officials to continue to put children and families first and reject all attempts to take away the security that comes from quality, affordable coverage,”
The AHCA also would have eliminated Medicaid’s commitment to provide low income and disabled children with the medically necessary services they need to survive and succeed, said coalition members.
“There would have been incredible confusion and strife for children and families who receive their health care through Medi-Cal,” said Mark Diel, Chief Executive Officer of the California Coverage and Health Initiative.
Diel said his organization will continue to help “California’s children and families get enrolled, stay covered, and navigate our complex health system.”
“The bill would have allowed states to slash benefits such as maternity care, mental health services, and pediatric screenings,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now. “We are relieved that the ill-considered AHCA was rejected, and will work to prevent similar attacks on the health care of kids and families across the state.”
“Consumer and patients advocates are ready to keep up the fight for our health against federal attacks on our coverage and care through administrative actions, budget cuts, and more,” Wright said. “We will fight federal efforts to sabotage our health system, and we are committed to continue California’s successful implementation and improvement of the ACA, working with state policymakers on additional ways to expand access and decrease costs.”
“When we make our voices heard, nothing is impossible.” Hernandez said.