Viewpoints

The Republican health plan is horrific for California. Call your representative

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and House Speaker Paul Ryan lead House Republicans to the Rose Garden in May to celebrate the House passage of an Obamacare repeal bill. McCarthy was among 14 California representatives who helped deliver the highly unpopular measure to the Senate, where Trump partisans hope to push it through. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and House Speaker Paul Ryan lead House Republicans to the Rose Garden in May to celebrate the House passage of an Obamacare repeal bill. McCarthy was among 14 California representatives who helped deliver the highly unpopular measure to the Senate, where Trump partisans hope to push it through. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) AP

I’ve got a slogan for the Republican health plan: “Make America Sick Again.”

Put that on your baseball caps, you 14 California Congressional representatives – Calvert, Cook, Denham, Hunter, Issa, Knight, LaMalfa, McCarthy, McClintock, Nunes, Rohrabacher, Royce, Valadao, and Walters – who voted for the House plan.

Now it’s up to the Senate, who look to be making it even worse. Over the last few, chilling days, the disastrous national implications of the Senate’s plan to drastically cut coverage for millions in order to shower billions in tax cuts on America’s richest, have finally come to light.

You think the Republican health care proposal won’t hurt you? Think again.

The consequences for California, and not just for large counties like Los Angeles, are horrific. The Senate proposal, like the House plan, would all but end Medicaid.

Why should we care? Because Californians have greatly benefited from Medicaid expansion.

My home county, Los Angeles, pushed especially hard to enroll individuals who had previously lacked healthcare coverage and added 1.2 million newly insured people. Between 2010 and 2015, the county’s uninsured rate dropped from 20.9 percent to 11.1 percent.

Most California counties and their residents benefited from not having to use our emergency rooms for primary healthcare. Forty percent of L.A. County residents are now Medicaid participants, along with 50 percent of Fresno County residents, 37 percent of Sacramento County residents, and 28 percent of San Diego County residents.

This morning I’m leading a press conference to decry the Republican proposals. I will be joined by many of my county colleagues and several who will lose coverage, including an L.A. musician whose career might have ended a few years ago after he dislocated his arm, but who, because of Medicaid expansion, got health insurance and desperately needed treatment.

We also enrolled men and women who were homeless or coming out of prison, or both. For many of these people, the underlying problem that first brought them into homelessness or jail was substance abuse, but they had never had health insurance and access to substance abuse treatment. Now they do.

Not about you? OK. Let’s imagine you are not poor, old, disabled, or a child.

Let’s imagine you are not among the 1 in 3 adults, the 1 in 2 children, the 3 in 5 nursing home residents, or the 1 in 2 people with disabilities statewide covered by Medi-Cal.

Let’s imagine you are not one of the 1.26 million people in the 14 California congressional districts whose Republican representatives voted for the House plan, people who were suddenly able to get insurance in the last few years and who are now likely to lose it along with 23 million other Americans.

Let’s imagine you think the Republican “Make America Sick Again” health care proposal won’t hurt you.

Think again.

The proposed changes are not only in Medicaid, but also in higher levels of deductibles, in forcing older people to pay more than younger, and in doing away with subsidies available to buy insurance from private companies.

California legislators might try to find a “Hail Mary” way to fund some of the gains we’ve made in providing coverage, but would undoubtedly have to limit benefits, effectively driving people to defer care until their symptoms are acute and expensive as they crowd into public hospitals and community clinics. A third option would be to divert billions of dollars from schools, transportation and other spending priorities.

In other words, no matter who you are, the consequences of the proposed Republican plan will diminish your life.

If the Senate “Healthcare to Wealthcare” bill passes, and the plan returns to the House, a remarkably few votes in Congress will separate us from disaster. The 14 California Republican votes will be critical.

Will California’s Republican House reps really vote to Make America – that is, their own friends, neighbors, constituents and communities – Sick Again?

Perhaps, in response, we could decide we’re getting sick of them.

Sheila Kuehl is a Los Angeles County supervisor, former state senator and assembly member and former chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. She can be contacted at sheila@bos.lacounty.gov.

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