What does health care look like to you?
Of course, it’s visits to the doctor, regular checkups, prevention and routine examinations, but the reach of health care stretches into so many parts of our lives.
Here in Fresno County, for example, our economy has a powerful link to health care.
When Medi-Cal expanded in our county, it led to more jobs, healthier budgets and more financial stability.
Consider this: without expanded health care, our economy will suffer. We’ll lose more than 15,000 jobs directly connected to health care and other industries. Even the doctors and nurses who would keep their jobs probably wouldn’t be around for very long. Who would want to work in this kind of environment?
About $430 million would be eliminated from our economy, meaning public agencies would be forced to do more with even less money and the entire community would suffer. Some health-care facilities would be left with insufficient budgets, putting an even greater strain on emergency rooms, the services these experts provide and their financial situations.
Finally, behind these facts, we have families and faces. They are real people with real fears. Health care is about people and hope.
More than 116,000 residents would lose coverage, leaving them with no support when illness, injury or accidents occur.
Here’s just a sample story of a real life family that would be impacted.
Seventeen months ago, Julie was nearly killed by her abuser. One evening, the perpetrator punched Julie to a pulp. He punched and punched her until he tired himself out. The next morning, Julie escaped.
Soon after, my organization, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation helped Julie secure legal protections against her attacker. But it wasn’t the legal representation alone that made her feel truly liberated from her abuser.
The ongoing treatment she has consistently received through Medi-Cal has helped her treat and manage both the visible wounds and the invisible injuries that continue to assault her imagination. As Julie puts it, “When I lived with my abuser, I dreaded every minute of my life. I felt like he would kill me at any given moment.The services I receive at my doctor’s office help me grow stronger.”
Today, however, Julie must survive another life-threatening assault: Congress' budget cuts purposefully designed to defund the public health care program that has kept Julie alive. Once again, Julie lives in fear – fear that her household will lose health coverage through expanded Medi-Cal.
Congress’ now nine-month effort to overhaul and cripple our health care programs has trapped patients like Julie into another cycle of violence. Should Congress and the president succeed in accomplishing any version of their proposed reforms (whether it is through budget cuts or tax reform), such enshrined law will be the deadly instrument bound to terminate live-saving health care to our communities.
Our local economy is also a direct victim. We must not forget that Congress’ massive and injurious disinvestment from our county is a natural corollary to the defunding of health care. All in all, Congress’ proposals are violent efforts against patients, families, and local economies.
Many groups and organizations, like CRLAF, Fresno Building Healthy Communities and all of their partners, have been working with local health and elected officials to find ways to provide health coverage for more Fresno County residents.
We can’t afford to go backward, stripping away care from families. It’s bad for our health and it’s also bad for business. Dissolving Medi-Cal would devastate our economy and leave fewer citizens without health coverage.
Let’s put Fresno County first. Let’s stand together for families and communities to create a healthy Fresno.
A healthy population benefits everyone.
Eduardo Ramirez Castro of Fresno is Associate Director-Sustainable Rural Communities Project, University of California Presidential Public Service Fellow California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.