Alameda County Launches Fight to Keep Health Care Alive

March 2, 2017

Alameda County is launching a campaign to help local recipients of Medi-Cal prepare for potential cuts to benefits and health care services once Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Wilma Chan, along with several local health nonprofits, announced the Fight for Medi-Cal campaign to help county residents navigate potential changes in their healthcare that would occur if  the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed.

“Over 170,000 Alameda County residents could immediately lose their health insurance coverage, and people are going to die from this,” Supervisor Chan said on Tuesday.

Organizations partnering in the campaign include Asian Health Services, Alameda Health System, La Clínica de la Raza, SEIU 1021 and UHW and the California Association of Public Hospitals. The ACA allows states the option to expand their Medicaid programs to cover people who fall below a certain income level. Medi-Cal is what the federal Medicaid program is called in California. The ACA also created Covered California, a marketplace that allows those who may not have health insurance through their job, Medicare, or Medicaid, to buy health insurance. Covered California provides financial assistance to purchase health coverage.

This would make the repeal of the ACA a crisis for those living under or near the poverty line and who would not be able to afford health care or receive vital services, said Sherry Hirota, chief executive officer of Asian Health Services.

“Taking away this health care is only threatening to harm those in our community that are the most vulnerable,” she said. “At risk are the Asian communities, since over 38 percent of (Alameda County) recipients of Covered California are Asian.”

According to 2016 statistics from Alameda Alliance for Health, Asians make up one-third of enrollees who are covered by Medicaid expansion. Black and white county residents each make up roughly 20 percent of Medi-Cal recipients, while Latinos represent nearly 13 percent.

Over half of those who would be severely affected by the repeal of the ACA would be between the ages of 19 and 39.The repeal of the ACA would not only affect the ability of local residents to access health care but could have substantial economic impacts on Alameda County, as well.

According to Supervisor Chan, a lot of jobs are at stake when changes are made in health care, not only in the health care industry but also in the food service, insurance, employment services, janitorial, accounting, transportation, restaurant, retail and local business sectors.

“Overall, it not only affects health care, but also could have a tangible negative impact on our larger community,” said Chan.

study by Laurel Lucia and Ken Jacobs at UC Berkeley found that repeal of the ACA could result in the loss to California of approximately $20.5 billion in annual federal funding for the Medi-Cal expansion and Covered California subsidies.

This could translate to a loss of approximately 209,000 jobs in California.

Another major concern to community groups is the impact that heightened xenophobia is having on the health of immigrants, many of whom have already stopped applying for benefits or have dropped out of the health care system altogether for fear that they are going to be deported if they are receiving federal aid.

“People are not coming to the clinic anymore and are going underground because they are afraid,” said Jane García, chief executive officer of La Clínica de la Raza.

“We’re doing everything we can to create a safe haven so that people can get health care services, regardless of immigration status. We encourage you to keep coming and getting these services,” she said.

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