Op-Ed: Congressman Denham, Your Constituents Need You
Like hundreds of thousands of Valley residents, Mireya Cazares’s life has been changed by federal health care reform. Born with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that gradually causes sufferers to lose their eyesight, Mireya – who works and couldn’t qualify for Medi-Cal – struggled to pay for the cost of health coverage, often having to borrow from family members.
This constant struggle ended in 2014, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called “Obamacare.” Coverage through California’s ACA exchange, Covered California, not only saves Mireya over $300 per month, she’s protected from being dropped or having her rates skyrocket due to her pre-existing condition. The law has lifted a dark cloud that hovered over her life.
Her story is not unique. It will be repeated all over our region if Congress repeals the ACA without a new plan to guarantee the same levels of coverage.
The current replacement plan, dubbed the American Health Care Act (or “Trumpcare”) and set for a vote in the House of Representatives March 23, doesn’t come close.
This bill offers no viable plan to ensure that the over 20 million Americans who have gained health coverage under the current law can keep their insurance. It so decimates the help paying for health coverage that low-income families now receive, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million Americans will lose their health insurance if it passes. Thousands of them will be our friends and neighbors in Modesto and all over the Valley.
As our representative in Washington, Rep. Jeff Denham must stand up for our people and make sure his district’s residents don’t lose their access to health care.
Recently, University of California researchers calculated the impact of Obamacare repeal and reported truly shocking numbers. In Stanislaus County – the bulk of Rep. Denham’s District 10 – the uninsured rate fell by over two thirds thanks to the ACA. That includes over 62,000 who now have insurance thanks to the expansion of Medi-Cal, who would almost certainly lose their coverage under Trumpcare. Nearly 17,000 more would lose the federal help that makes private insurance affordable.
Repeal would cost Stanislaus County about 3,000 jobs, costing our local economy $283 million.
San Joaquin County, also partly included in the congressman’s district, would take an even worse hit, with over 73,000 residents losing access to Medi-Cal and over 22,000 losing the subsidies that let them afford private insurance. The county’s economy would lose over 4,000 jobs.
Does anyone believe our two counties can afford to lose 7,000 jobs?
Altogether, roughly 170,000 of the people Jeff Denham represents could lose their access to health care if the ACA is repealed.
We must never forget that these statistics aren’t just numbers. They represent people like Mireya. Without access to health care, people literally die.
Research suggests that repealing the ACA could lead to as many as 43,000 preventable deaths each year.
We don’t claim that the current law is perfect. In fact, we’d be happy to suggest ways to improve it. But despite its imperfections, the ACA has made life better, safer and healthier for tens of millions of Americans, including many of our neighbors.
That makes this issue far more important than political viewpoints or party loyalty. We need our congressman to stand up for our district and the people he represents. He must make sure that any changes to health insurance reform protect everyone’s access to lifesaving care. Right now, that means voting NO on Trumpcare.
Noe Paramo is co-director of the Sustainable Rural Communities Project at the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. Anthony Galace is health policy director at The Greenlining Institute.