Experts and health care providers briefed ethnic media about the future of healthcare in California as the debate about the Trump Administration’s repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act continues.
The August 10 media briefing was presented by New America Media in collaboration with The Children’s Partnership, California Primary Care Association, and Health Access California. It was facilitated by Odette Alcazaren-Keeley, director, National Media Network Chair, New America Media Ethnic Media Awards Program & Gala.
Mayra Alvarez, president, The Children’s Partnership, which works to improve the lives of underprivileged children, noted that together, Medicaid, California’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the ACA cover over 5.7 million children in California – more than half across the state.
That number includes a disproportionate number of children of color, with roughly three out of four children enrolled in Medical, Alvarez informed.
“Today, the rate of children covered in California is at a historic all-time high of 97 percent; reflecting the fact that these programs – Medicaid, CHIP, and the Affordable Care Act – are working for kids and families, because to the 97 percent of kids with coverage, it matters,” Alvarez stated.
Studies show that children with health care coverage show up at school, ready to learn, are less likely to drop out of high school, and are more likely to graduate from college, according to Alvarez. She urged bi-partisan support of CHIP to ensure the state’s program continues to run successfully.
The stakes for diverse communities could not be larger for California or communities of color, according to Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, during the conference call on August 10. The statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition represents consumer groups, communities of color, immigrants, people with disabilities, children, seniors, women, people of faith, and organized labor.
Wright spoke on diversity and immigration within healthcare and more. “Proposals in the Senate would have meant four, five, even six million more Californians would have become uninsured, cuts of tens of billions of dollars to the healthcare system that we all depend on, and the undermining of key consumer protections,” he said.
Not only would a variety of proposals in Congress have repealed the ACA, but they also would have attacked and cut the Medicaid Program, a guarantee Californians have depended on for over a half-century, Wright continued.
According to Wright, Health Access California is particularly concerned about three areas: cuts to Medicaid, which include rolling back of Medicaid expansions (which covers four million Californians); the cutting and capping of the overall program (now covering 14 million Californians, including a half of all children and 2/3 of all nursing home residents, who are disproportionately from communities of color); and, cuts that would have significantly impacted the financial assistance, which helps people afford private coverage.
“That combination of the cap and the roll back of the expansion would have resulted by estimation of the Department of Healthcare Services in a $30 billion cut to the Medical Program, which is staggering amount money – more than the State of California spends on all of higher education, corrections, and state parks combined,” Wright stated.
While he and other advocates are relieved that proposals (such as the U.S. Senate’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act”) are stalled for the moment, they know that the threat continues, he continued. For instance, Wright mentions that advocates are paying close attention to that bill with the concern that it is still active, and, may be taken up at some time.Andie Patterson, director of Government Affairs, California Primary Care Association, said that non-profit community clinics comprise the bulk of her organization’s membership.
Through Medicaid expansion, 54 percent of patients newly enrolled and beneficiaries newly enrolled in Medical managed care were being assigned in health centers. For instance, 1.3 million entered into the health centers system.
Any change in Medicaid will absolutely undermine the foundation of health centers, Patterson argued. Health clinics are safety nets, particularly for low-income communities, and they are an exciting model, Patterson told Alcazaren-Keeley.
Many big health centers provide primary care, behavioral health care, optometry and chiropractor services, oral health care services, all in one place and with a team of providers who talk to each other, Patterson noted. She said it’s a model every American should have.
“These clinics and health centers were primarily started largely out of the Civil Rights Movement and born of the idea that everybody deserves access to quality health care and that it should come from the community for people of the community in the language that you speak and in the culture that you live in,” Patterson continued.
While the threats to Medicaid are existential and terrifying, the one California is facing immediately and that is very real is the primary care funding cliff, said Patterson.
Health center funding is up for renewal by September 30, and if it isn’t, health centers nationally will take a 70 percent cut in base grant funding – particularly to the $3.6 billion provided by the ACA, she elaborated.
“Nationally, it will mean 2,800 health center sites closed, 51,000 staff are laid off, and nine million patients could potentially lose access to care … a 10 percent impact to California,” said Patterson.