HANFORD — Hanford-area residents and advocates for health care access held a news conference Thursday to share stories and demand Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, oppose Republicans' recently unveiled American Health Care Act. The sentiment of the day: "Hands off our health care."
Dillon Savory, who represents the Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Kings Counties Central Labor Council, addressed the media present at the event in front of Adventist Medical Center in Hanford. He said Valadao’s 21st Congressional District is the “poorest district” in the state, and home to many individuals covered by the Affordable Care Act.
Savory said health care is a right for all individuals and challenged Valadao to side with his constituents and not House Republicans. He said the new plan is divisive and only about ideological differences, not what’s best for people.
At the press conference, Yasmin Peled, the northern California organizer with Health Access California, a statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, said no congress member should vote to approve the new bill because millions of Americans would have their health care undermined. She said the bill would especially hurt the most poor and vulnerable people in the state who depend on Medicaid.
Adventist Medical Center in Hanford receives $383 million a year in Medi-Cal funds, Peled said. She said a repeal of Medicaid expansion would potentially eliminate $68 million or more of the funds the hospital gets annually to care for those patients.
“We’re here to ask representative Valadao, ‘are you going to vote for a bill that will hurt your constituents?’,” Peled said, and the crowd answered her question by yelling “no.”
Valadao released a statement shortly after the press conference saying that he is continuing to "review" the new health care proposal.
“Our health care system was broken before Obamacare, but Obamacare made it even worse. Possession of an insurance card does not necessarily equate to access to quality health care, a reality my constituents grapple with every day. That's why we need to find a better solution.
"Our health care system is incredibly complex and any potential reforms must be thoughtfully considered,” Valadao’s statement continued. “As I continue to review the recent proposal from House Republicans, ensuring my constituents have access to affordable, quality health care will remain my top priority.”
Although there is no Planned Parenthood in the 21st Congressional District, a spokesman from Planned Parenthood Mar Monte spoke at the press conference. The spokesman, Pedro Elias, said there were 14,945 preventative services offered to the district’s constituents.
Elias said Valadao’s constituents are driving all the way to Fresno to get the services they need. Planned Parenthood would get defunded in the American Health Care Act.
“The Valley needs Planned Parenthood health centers,” Elias said, adding the Central Valley has some of the highest unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates.
Savory introduced local speakers to talk about how the Affordable Care Act has affected their lives.
Jacqueline Lowe spoke at the event on behalf of a friend named Jamie, who worked all her life but was never able to afford health care, so Jamie never went to the doctor or sought preventative care services.
“Jamie was a victim of a health care system that for so very long did not provide coverage or assistance for low- and middle-income workers,” Lowe said. “They simply fell through the cracks.”
The passage of the Affordable Care Act brought hope to people like Jamie, Lowe said. Unfortunately, shortly after Jamie was enrolled in health care, she was diagnosed with fourth-stage cervical cancer and died less than a year later.
“The tragedy is that had Jamie had health insurance earlier and been able to go to the doctor, she probably would have been diagnosed earlier and a simple operation may have saved her life,” Lowe said.
Lowe said the silver lining in Jamie’s story is that she received the health care she needed before she died, and did not leave her family with a financial burden. She said Jamie’s story illustrates the need for the affordable health care many low-income, elderly and sick residents of Kings County need.
Santos Garcia held up a picture of his granddaughter Kiara and spoke about how her parents enrolled in affordable health care right before she was born.
“This lovely child is now 4 years old and thriving,” Garcia said. "We ask Congressman Valadao to support coverage for the families in his district,” Garcia said, adding there are over 150,000 children in the 21st District who are covered by the Affordable Care Act and Medi-Cal.
Savory said residents will not be silent until Valadao promises provisions in the Affordable Care Act are kept, or until the act is improved but not repealed altogether.