In a twist of intentional irony, House Republicans are poised today to repeal the Affordable Care Act instead of celebrating the seventh anniversary of its signing.
House Republicans are intent on tarnishing this historic day by implementing measures that would strip an estimated 24 million of the lowest income Americans of their health coverage. Despite heavy criticism from stakeholders on both sides of the aisle, and a scathing analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, the American Healthcare Care Act will likely go to a vote on the House floor today.
If repeal efforts are successful, the ramifications will be felt in communities across America and particularly here in the North Bay. On the national level, the Affordable Care Act has broadened access to health insurance and quality health care. More than 20 million people have gained insurance since implementation. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and subsequent expansion of Medicaid, California’s low-income residents have seen unprecedented increases in insurance coverage and access to care, bringing the uninsured rate down to a record 8.6 percent in California and 6.8 percent in Sonoma County.
The Republican alternative would wipe away these historic gains, with an estimated 14 million losing coverage by 2018 and 24 million without coverage by 2026. In addition, the bill would eliminate many of the crucial protective components of the Affordable Care Act.
The GOP is posed to strip billions of dollars out of California’s Medi-Cal system through block grants and/or per-capita caps, undermine a successful individual health insurance market here in California and chill future advances in innovation to increase the quality of care, improve outcomes and lower health care costs.
Locally, the impact of the Affordable Care Act has been profound. Since it became law in 2010, Sonoma County hospitals, private doctors, community health centers and many other groups have worked together to ensure that its key provisions expanded coverage, improved health care and resulted in greater wellness in our community. More than 58,000 residents have directly benefited through coverage expansions in Medi-Cal and Covered California. Having affordable health care has allowed Sonoma County residents to spend their incomes on rent, food and other basic needs, supporting our local economies.
According to the UC Berkeley Labor Center, rolling back the Affordable Care Act could generate a loss of up to 2,000 jobs in Sonoma County and a net annual loss of $192 million in Sonoma County alone.
The Affordable Care Act demonstrated that Americans believe access to affordable care is a right and not the privilege of a few. It is crucial in this moment, when we stand to lose so much, to emphasize how important it is to protect the gains that have been made.
The American Healthcare Act is not the reform package promised by the Trump administration, and it isn’t the health reform plan that Americans want or deserve. On behalf of Covered Sonoma, a community coalition comprised of more than 30 organizations intent on improving access to care and coverage, we firmly support the Affordable Care Act and the critical role it has played since its implementation.
Suzie Shupe is chief executive officer of the Redwood Community Health Coalition. Karen Milman is Sonoma County’s health officer. They are co-chairs of Covered Sonoma.