health care

The GOP health care bill that squeezed through the House of Representatives this week is getting mixed reviews from local residents. Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, voted for it.

Sentinel file photo

HANFORD – The GOP health care bill that squeaked through the House of Representatives this week drew widely differing reactions from people interviewed for this story.

Kings County Young Republicans Chairman Lee Wisecarver praised the legislation, which is likely to be changed significantly as it goes to the Senate.

"I for one am glad that it passed," he said. "I feel that Obamacare has been a burden on citizens here and across the country."

The Republican bill, which is called the American Health Care Act, replaces the Affordable Care Act, which is often referred to as Obamacare.

Detractors of the AHCA have begun referring to it as Trumpcare.

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, had been sitting on the fence when the first version of the bill died in March before it came up for a vote.

Up until Thursday's vote to pass an amended version of that bill, Valadao had maintained his neutral stance.

He, along with other Republican congressmen in the San Joaquin Valley, including Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, voted "yes" on the modified version Thursday.

"Under the [Affordable Care Act], our Central Valley communities were prevented from recruiting medical professionals, our emergency rooms were overflowing, and parents were unable to choose the best health care options for their chilldren," Valadao said in a written statement. "The American Health Care Act will stabilize our health care system, ensuring our community has access to high-quality, affordable health care."

Many political observers think Valadao's vote will hurt him when he's up for re-election in November 2018.

The reason is that so many people in Valadao's 21st Congressional District received health insurance under the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medi-Cal, the government-funded health care program for low-income residents.

Under the expansion, the number of Kings County residents in Medi-Cal increased by 20,356 to reach a total of 45,131, according to Keith Winkler, former Kings County public health director.

It's likely that most of those added did not previously have health insurance.

The AHCA phases out the federal funding that made the Medi-Cal expansion possible.

Winkler has expressed concern. He reiterated that stance in a phone interview Friday.

"The last bill had a lot of the same features," he said. "It's going to be an impact on a lot of our residents, particularly those who benefited from the expansion of Medi-Cal."

Wisecarver expressed doubt that Valadao will face major blowback in Kings County.

He feels that Valadao's vote is in "best interests of the district."

Wisecarver said the Affordable Care Act drove up premiums and increased prescription costs to the point where people who got insured through subsidized exchanges couldn't afford it.

Wisecarver thinks the law ended up doing more harm than good. 

"It cost more than it was originally supposed to cost," he said. "Forcing people to have insurance that doesn't work is like forcing them the stay on a sinking ship without a life vest."

Wisecarver also doesn't like the ACA's requirement that every American purchase some kind of health insurance.

The GOP House bill gets would terminate the individual mandate.

It its place, it would impose a surcharge on people who try to get coverage after a period of being uninsured.

Holly Blair, chairwoman of the Kings County Democratic Central Committee and a member of the Lemoore City Council, didn't mince words as she expressed her strong disapproval of the GOP bill.

Blair focused on the prediction that many people will lose coverage if the bill goes forward as is.

"I think it's incredibly destructive to take away the health care of so many people that you're sworn to take care of," she said.

Blair said it's "unfathomable that anybody would vote 'yes' on that bill."

"I think David Valadao has done a good job of representing his constituents, but this [vote] is something I don't think I can ever forgive," Blair said. "This vote does not represent the constituents of his district."

"This was a vote for his party, not a vote for the people of our community," she added.

The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. 

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