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The future of affordable health care and the impact changes have on locals

Posted at 5:24 PM, Feb 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-28 20:24:21-05

All across the country, anger, confusion and concern about the future of affordable health care. 

President Donald Trump campaigning on the promise to repeal and replace the signature legislation of the Obama White House, a move that has our local leaders sounding off. 

From the second ranking Republican in Congress, to local healthcare executives, and family members who said they have been saved through affordable access to healthcare. 

This past week a leaked draft-bill from GOP leaders showing a plan to not only replace Obamacare, but to transform Medicaid, beginning with key tax reforms.

Republicans propose to give subsidies to help recipients pay for their coverage, ranging from $2,000 dollars to $4,000 dollars a year depending on one’s age. The new tax credit aims to help middle class residents afford health coverage. Tax credits would reportedly go up for those living near the poverty line.

GOP leaders also calling for expanding health savings accounts, or HAS’s. 

Right now individuals are allowed to save $3,400 dollars a year in a tax-free HSA, families can save $6,750 dollars a year. The GOP’s plan looks to nearly double those allotments. 

But perhaps the most critical aspect on the Republicans plan for a repeal and replacement of the ACA focuses on the expansion of Medicaid, which under Obamacare, covered more than 3.7 million Californians through Medi-Cal, including more than 95-thousand low-income residents in Kern County. 

GOP lawmakers calling for major changes to Medicaid, including phasing down the expansion to allow states to decide how many people would be covered.  

The federal government would only fund 60% of the cost, compared to 90% under the current ACA.  It would be the most significant attempt to reform Medicaid in the programs history. 

“If we did nothing, it would collapse upon itself,” Bakersfield Congressman and House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy told us in an exclusive interview. 

McCarthy said the the current rate of federal spending on the program is not sustainable. “Over the next ten years that will now start to cost Americans $1 trillion dollars.”

McCarthy told us that amounts makes up all the discretionary spending done through nearly every branch of the federal government. 

But McCarthy did tell us, the most popular aspects of the ACA will stay. “Pre-existing conditions, children staying on your parents plan at 26,” McCarthy told us will not be taken away.

Clinical Sierra Vista CEO Steve Schilling operates 17 health centers and 4 dental clinics in Kern County. He acknowledges there are drawbacks to the Affordable Care Act but said the benefits to Kern County’s most vulnerable population cannot be understated. 

“If people seek care early, because they are covered they will ultimately end up healthier and their lives will improve,” Schilling said. 

In addition to Medi-Cal last year alone, more than 16,000 Kern County families signed up for private health insurance.”The repair, replace needs to be carefully constructed,” Schilling told 23ABC.

A bill carefully constructed is what Bakersfield resident Julie Solis said will keep her husband alive. “I knew there was something wrong with him, I knew he was dying when I took him to the hospital,” Solis said.

Her husband was diagnosed with Valley Fever in 2008. She struggled for nearly seven years to pay for health coverage, and deal with issues before the ACA was signed into law.

“That’s the first time I ever heard the words pre-existing condition,” Solis said. Insurance companies told her “you and your kids will have no issues, but for your husband,” Solis explained. “We will not cover him.”

Solis said her husband requires medication to stay alive, that at one time would cost her more than $16,000 dollars out of pocket each month.“Before my husband got ill we have private insurance, I never thought if there are people out there dying because they can’t afford their medication.” 

After they received covered from the ACA, her husbands medication was nearly all covered. It's medication her husband will have to take for the rest of his life in order to live, Solis said.

She has a message for lawmakers as they look to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. 

“Look outside ourselves, and look around and said although I’m healthy and although I have private insurance…I’m one breathe away my husbands situation where you lose everything and the only thing you have to depend on is our leaders.” 

Obamacare Repeal and Replace Policy Brief and Resources