Capitol Alert

Obamacare repeal could leave 5 million Californians without health care

How would repealing Obamacare affect California?

State Sen. Ed Hernandez, chair of the Senate Health Committee, warns of a major financial hit on millions of Californians if Obamacare is repealed.
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State Sen. Ed Hernandez, chair of the Senate Health Committee, warns of a major financial hit on millions of Californians if Obamacare is repealed.

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The outlook is dreary for millions of low-income Californians and others who over the past six years have received expanded access to health care under Obamacare.

That’s the warning from Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa, should congressional Republicans repeal the federal health care law, as promised, without a sufficient replacement plan.

Hernandez, chair of the Senate Health Committee, will convene a panel in Bakersfield Thursday to take Californians’ temperature on how they perceive the Affordable Care Act, and what can be done to improve it. The hearing comes amid fervent efforts, largely among Democrats, to preserve provisions of Obamacare, including access to Medi-Cal, subsidized insurance premiums and prohibitions on denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions.

“We want to hear from people about what is was like before the Affordable Care Act and what it's like to have insurance now and what it would potentially be like without it,” Hernandez said.

Without federal funding, millions of people face losing access to health care, Hernandez said. California receives $20 billion in federal money annually, the lion’s share of which funds Medi-Cal for low-income residents and those facing the greatest health disparities.

“If we lose that money, the state will not have $20 billion to backfill it,” he said.

Nearly 5 million state residents are at risk of losing health benefits under a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, according to a new study from the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Hernandez, meanwhile, is seeking to drum up political support among Californians to pressure Trump and his Republican allies to halt any plans to dismantle the disputed health care law. A livestream of the 3 p.m. hearing is available here.

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GOLDEN STATE DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFTS: In 2015, Hispanics overtook whites to become California's largest demographic group, and their political power is slowly catching up: Both houses of the Legislature are now led by Latinos, and the state is on the verge of its first Latino attorney general. But those recent trends belie the community's much deeper roots, both in California, which was a Spanish territory and part of Mexico before it became a state, and the country as a whole. The UC Center Sacramento will kick off its winter seminar series with a lecture on why Latino history matters to U.S. history from Vicki Ruiz, a professor of history and Latino/Chicano studies at UC Irvine, noon at the center on K Street.

WORTH REPEATING: “We don’t want wild men as prosecutors...we want people with a sense of restraint and a sense of empathy.” - Gov. Jerry Brown, in opening remarks Wednesday to the Senate Rules Committee on his nomination of Xavier Becerra as California attorney general.

NEW TO THE BEE: My name Angela Hart and I’m excited to join The Bee Capitol Bureau to cover state politics. I previously spent three years at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat covering Sonoma County government and politics, as well as health care, housing and more. Reach me on social media @ahartreports and email me ahart@sacbee.com with tips. A little about me: I’m a U.S. Army veteran and alum of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

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Editor’s note: This post was updated to amend the quote in “worth repeating.”

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