Health care is a hot-button issue, and Kings County residents have no shortage of opinions regarding what repealing and replacing Obamacare would do to the community.
President Donald Trump wants the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare —repealed and replaced, while many others have been advocating for the health care that came in during President Barrack Obama’s administration.
The Senate recently unveiled its own draft of a health care bill that could replace the Affordable Care Act. This bill differs from the House Republican health care bill, and includes cutting Medicaid and eliminating penalties for not buying insurance.
Critics say the Senate proposal would gut care for those who need it most. Proponents say Obamacare isn't working and it needs to be replaced. They also suggest withholding judgement on the new plan until it's been finalized.
A previously reported 20,356 people in Kings County received health insurance under the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medi-Cal, the government-funded health care program for low-income residents.
Though Lemoore City Council member Holly Blair is chairwoman of the Kings County Democratic Central Committee, she said health care should not be seen as a partisan issue. She said health care is a fundamental human right and should be treated as so, despite the differences between Republicans and Democrats.
“I cannot believe people are playing partisan games with lives,” Blair said.
She said under the Affordable Care Act, healthy people and those who are sick or have pre-existing conditions are put into the same pool and have the same health coverage. She said the Senate bill will separate the healthy from the sick and the healthy will pay less while the sick have their rates adjusted and will most likely have to pay more.
Blair said she has had time to read and understand the Senate bill, and she believes it would allow insurance companies to charge more or deny coverage to people who are vulnerable.
“What the new bill will do is shockingly cruel,” Blair said. “It would effectively be sentencing people to death.”
Blair said the most vulnerable people are those who live in Kings County or rural places like Kings County, where people are struggling to make ends meet and have to deal with things like asthma, which is common for residents of the Valley.
“Access to health care in rural areas is hard in general,” Blair said. “This will make it harder.”
Blair said as rich as the nation is, health care for everyone has not been the priority like she believes it should be. She said as human beings, everyone should have quality, affordable health care no matter what side of the partisan aisle they fall on.
Jackie Lowe, a Kings County resident and someone who has been very critical of repealing Obamacare is also not a fan of the Senate bill. She said it will cause those who do not get health coverage from employers and who cannot afford private insurance to fall through the cracks.
She said she believes repealing the current health care will cause “ripple effects” in the community and will hurt rural hospitals like Adventist Medical Center by flooding their emergency rooms with people.
Lowe said Trump promised his voters that he would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something that was better, and she is “devastated” for his voters because she believes he is not keeping that promise.
“People think it’s not going to affect them, but it will,” Lowe said.
Vern Costa, chairman of the Kings County Republican Party, said because the Senate health care bill is only an early draft, he expects there to be changes made and he won’t speculate what the final bill will look like.
He did say, however, say that he has “great confidence” in local representatives to bring affordable health care to the residents of the Central Valley. He said right now, people in the Valley are suffering and the emergency rooms are overflowing — whether people possess insurance cards or not.
“I am confident the Republican bill, when finished, will be far better than the failing Obamacare,” Costa said.
Trump has stated he would like senators to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a Republican bill, but might hold open a repeal-only option if an agreement can’t be made soon.