By DORI ROSE INDA
Having lived in and served the Pájaro Valley for 25 years, I am deeply concerned about the potential impact our community faces if the Senate’s version of the American Health Care Act (the Better Care Reconciliation Act) is passed. Like the House version, I believe it will leave our community once again with worse health and without access to healthcare.
In a community that rises at dawn and works till dusk six days a week, our well-being and economic vitality require a strong and healthy workforce. Limited access to insurance and primary care, threatens this vitality. Salud Para La Gente (Salud) opened its doors 40 years ago because farmworkers had no access to healthcare. Women working in the fields were also delivering their babies in the fields. We have made great strides, and Salud now serves nearly 28,000 community members through comprehensive primary care services.
Over the last four years, we saw a dramatic and exciting change. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” has helped some 15 million people across the nation get health insurance, and access preventative and acute care. In California, the ACA has helped reduce the uninsured rate from 17.2 percent in 2013 to 7.4 percent in 2016, meaning more than 5 million Californians gained access to health care and coverage, 13.6 percent of those are residents of Santa Cruz, and 11.9 percent are residents of Monterey County.
Community health centers like Salud have been at the forefront of that much-needed progress. The ACA has helped Salud provide expanded services to help more people access better health. In fact, Salud saw a 49 percent increase in patients with insurance. Before this, many patients came when they were very sick. Now with insurance, our patients come for regular visits including checkups and screenings, allowing us to identify and treat conditions early and support quick recovery so that attendance at school and work, and family income are not affected.
In an interview with California Healthline, CEO Paul Markovich of Blue Shield of California said the AHCA “could return us to a time when people with a birth defect or who became sick could not purchase or afford insurance.” That discrimination, he said, is “unconscionable.” We agree.
The GOP’s plan proposes even deeper cuts to insurance than the House version and increases costs to those who remain eligible for insurance. It allows pre-existing conditions to again be a consideration for insurance eligibility and makes healthcare more expensive for seniors. The GOP’s Senate’s plan would also allow insurance companies to sell plans that provide less coverage with higher out-of-pocket costs, and states would have options to drop coverage for benefits like maternity care, mental health or opioid treatment.
The GOP’s proposed plan, if passed, will hurt many of the people we serve. The federal Congressional Budget Office determined that the Senate’s version would cause 22 million people to lose their insurance, 13 million in California. This is not a plan that benefits our region, our state or our nation.
Those legislators who support the GOP’s plan are threatening to undermine the health of our community. It is critical that both Democrats and Republicans alike deny its passage.
Salud is participating with state and federal experts — the California Primary Care Association (CPCA) and the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) — in advocacy efforts. We invite the community to get involved as well — consider sharing your story on how the AHCA would affect your health and access to coverage with state representatives and legislators and ask your relatives and friends in other parts of California and the nation to speak to their representatives.
Send your story to Sigolène Ortega at [email protected].
Dori Rose Inda is CEO of Salud Para La Gente, a community health center with 11 sites in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Her opinions are her own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.