The Republican Congress and the White House have certainly gotten themselves into a bind. For years congressional Republicans have fiercely criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is one of President Obama's key legacies. And on the campaign trail, Donald Trump and Republican congressional candidates vowed to "repeal and replace Obamacare," zeroing in on the program's shortcomings while ignoring its many virtues, including the fact that it enabled millions of previously uninsured Americans to have access to affordable health care.
Recent polls show that significantly more people favor the ACA over Republican bills introduced in both houses of Congress this year to replace the current health care law. But now, despite the public's growing opposition to the Republican plans -- which would leave 22 million more Americans without health insurance and many more struggling with higher medical costs -- Republicans are trying to figure out a way to make good on their campaign promises without backlash from their constituents.
But the situation is far more than a vexing dilemma for Washington politicos. It represents, for many Americans, a matter of life or death. The secretly crafted Senate plan recently revealed to the public and fellow members of Congress would, among other things, gut the Medicaid program serving the neediest Americans by slashing $772 billion from its budget, and allow states to determine whether people could be excluded from insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions.
The proposed bill would severely impact the young and the old, although working Americans and others in the middle of those age groups are likely see higher costs in medical care and preventive-care programs. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who represents portions of the Peninsula, noted that the proposed ACA replacement "provides less coverage to fewer Americans at higher costs." Her description of the bill as "heartless and cruel" is rightfully echoed across the country as details of this proposal emerge.
An article by Kevin Forestieri in the June 30 issue of the Voice touches on some of the adverse consequences of this bill in Santa Clara County. At Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, where 43 percent of the children receiving care are supported by Medi-Cal and the Children's Health Insurance Program, hits to the Medicaid/Medi-Cal program would dramatically impact a medical facility nationally recognized for its programs and, oftentimes, lifesaving services for the young.
The county-operated Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where more than half of patient visits are funded by Medi-Cal/Medicaid, would be hard-hit by provisions in the Senate bill. County Supervisor Joe Simitian noted that people now covered by Medi-Cal "would be denied coverage or have insufficient coverage, and the responsibility for indigent care would again fall on the county -- presumably without the reimbursement and resources necessary."
There is strong resistance in California and across the nation to this travesty of a "health care" bill, which if passed would throw into reverse the country's progress in addressing serious problems with health care access for all Americans. We applaud Rep. Eshoo and state senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein for adding their forceful voices to the opposition.
The ACA has flaws, but they are fixable flaws. Whether congressional Republicans will get that message and change course remains to be seen, but they risk serious consequences in the 2018 election if they move forward with their current cruel plan.