Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown to GOP on Obamacare: Don’t just shift costs to states

As the Republican-led Congress moved to repeal the federal health care law, Gov. Jerry Brown warned Friday that dismantling the Affordable Care Act without passing a suitable alternative wouldn’t just leave millions of Californians without care.

“It will destabilize the commercial market for small-business owners and individuals,” Brown wrote in his response to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who last month solicited the Democratic governor’s input. “In a collapsing market, these business owners and individuals could face significant premium increases, out of reach for many.”

Brown credited Obamacare with helping plunge the state’s uninsured rate to a historic low of 7.4 percent last year from 17.2 percent in 2013. And he pointed to the rising costs and diminished health outcomes of McCarthy’s own constituents in Tulare, Kern and Los Angeles Counties “where the number of Medi-Cal enrollees is high,” should they be stripped of insurance coverage.

“California stands ready to work with you and your colleagues to find decent and real solutions,” Brown wrote. “But I implore you: don’t just shift billions of dollars in costs to the states. That would be a very cynical way to prop up the federal budget – and devastating to millions of Americans.”

More than $15 billion from the federal government flows to California to support Obamacare’s optional expansion covering nearly 4 million adults. Brown and the Democratic-led Legislature would be forced to find more money or roll back Medi-Cal’s rapid growth should it be repealed.

McCarthy had written to Brown and California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones in December, asking them to provide answers to several questions, including what changes Congress should consider to grant more flexibility to states, stabilize health insurance markets and reduce costs.

“As Obamacare continues to saddle patients with less choice, higher costs, and mountains of mandates, it is clear that major health care reforms must be made to strengthen and improve health care for all Americans,” McCarthy wrote in the letter, which was signed by five other House Republicans, including Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas.

Jones responded Thursday with an 18-page letter expressing his own concerns if the 2010 law is eliminated.

“Before you vote to repeal the ACA, every American has the right to know exactly what, if anything, you intend to replace it with,” Jones wrote.

“A vote to repeal the ACA, without a specific replacement, would create crippling uncertainty, causing instability in the insurance market which could bring about the collapse of our health care system.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago