California health care under attack by Congressional Republicans

Last week, thanks to a sustained effort by many people and organizations throughout the South Bay and the United States, we succeeded in our collective work to get Congress to pull back from the brink and vote down a series of Senate bills which would have taken health insurance from tens of millions of Americans, including many millions of Americans who currently have health insurance through their employers. It says much about the state of our nation that these bills gained any votes at all, much less the single vote margin by which the final bill was defeated.

Normally, Members of Congress do not vote yes on a bill which dramatically increases the out-of-pocket costs of health care for almost all Americans. Normally, Members of Congress do not vote yes on a bill which only 16% of Americans approve of. Normally, a President who campaigned on preserving funding for the current Medicaid program does not attempt to aggressively bully Congress into cutting more than $700 billion in Federal funding for Medicaid.

These are not normal times.

These Congressional bills would have had a particularly destructive effect on California’s health care system.

California already pays very little for Medi-Cal.

Cuts in the GOP bill would have further eviscerated Medi-Cal, threatening the health insurance of all enrollees, but in particular the over 140,000 Santa Clara County residents who gained coverage through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, which would have been rolled back under the GOP bill, and the over 57,000 County residents over 65 who receive Medi-Cal payment assistance in addition to Medicare for home care and nursing home services, a benefit that would be vulnerable to cuts under the GOP-proposed funding formula. Also threatened were the many tens of thousands of County residents insured through the ACA-enabled Covered California private health insurance exchange or the Law’s provision which allows residents less than 26 years old to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans.

As expected, our Senators Harris and Feinstein were on the front lines fighting to preserve the Affordable Care Act. Our members hit the phones calling voters in Western States to connect them with their members of Congress as they considered support for the toxic repeal bills.  Today, we are committed to fight to defend healthcare against any attacks.

We agree with Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California: “As long as politicians in power seek to cut our care, we need to continue to fight like hell for our health.”

Angela Tamayo is a San Jose Kaiser Permanente employee and an Executive Board member of SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West.

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