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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 11:16 am | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 

Congressman Salud Carbajal, Santa Barbara County Healthcare Experts Discuss American Health Care Act

Panel fields questions and talks about potential impact of congressional Republicans' proposed legislation to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act

Congressman Salud Carbajal and a panel of Santa Barbara County healthcare experts participate in a town hall meeting Monday night. Click to view larger
Congressman Salud Carbajal and a panel of Santa Barbara County healthcare experts participate in a town hall meeting Monday night. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Congressman Salud Carbajal and local healthcare experts emphasized their concerns about the Republican healthcare plan to replace and repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at a standing-room-only town hall meeting Monday in Santa Barbara.

Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, sat on a panel to answer residents' questions with Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean, Sansum Clinic's Dr. David Dodson, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics' Dr. Charles Fenzi, CenCal Health Administration and Government Services Director Michael Harris, and Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Central Coast Jenna Tosh.

They discussed the potential impact on Santa Barbara County residents and the American healthcare system by repealing portions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It was Carbajal's second town hall meeting since taking over as representative of the 24th Congressional District. 

About 400 people filled the Fleischmann Auditorium at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History seeking answers about the future of health insurance coverage and the meeting ran over the scheduled 90 minutes. 

Carbajal started off the night by talking about the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee's 37-page report released on Monday, which estimated that enacting the American Health Care Act would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the next 10 years and the number of uninsured people would rise by 24 million by 2026, relative to current law. 

The American Health Care Act was proposed by congressional Republicans. 

Carbajal echoed the CBO report's estimation that in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the proposed legislation than under current law. 

“My major concern with this legislation is that it allows for insurance companies to charge seniors up to five times more (than young people) for coverage,” Carbajal said. “It endangers Medicaid programs nationwide and does not guarantee access to health care for those individuals with preexisting conditions.”

Carbajal said the proposed bill is a “direct attack” on women’s access to health care by freezing all Medicaid funding for family planning clinics.

About 400 people filled the Fleischmann Auditorium at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Monday night to hear about the health care system. Click to view larger
About 400 people filled the Fleischmann Auditorium at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Monday night to hear about the health care system.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Loud boos from the crowd followed that remark.

If there’s a congressional act to make Planned Parenthood ineligible for federal funding, Planned Parenthood Central Coast will lose $10 million annually in their $15 million budget, Tosh said. 

“This proposal also includes a direct attack on the patients that rely on Planned Parenthood for care,” Tosh said. “The bill proposed to defund Planned Parenthood, meaning it would prevent anyone who has Medicaid or any federal program from turning to Planned Parenthood for their care. The federal dollars subsidize reimbursements for basic healthcare services.”

Planned Parenthood provides care for 35,000 people annually at five centers in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, Tosh said. 

Dean, the county's Public Health Officer, shared how the proposed legislation would affect the community and local clinics.

One of the programs funded by the Affordable Care Act is called the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides about $1 billion annually in public health funds.

By 2019, the fund would be eliminated under the congressional Republicans' plan, Dean said. 

The county stands to lose 12 percent of its budget in public funding under the proposed legislation, she said.

“That’s a big chunk,” Dean said. “Eight million dollars that we had previously — prior to the ACA — is gone.”

The money is a key source of funding for childhood immunization programs, laboratory preparedness and research, which Dean called core public health functions. 

Congressman Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, hosted a town hall meeting Monday night with local healthcare experts including Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean, right. Click to view larger
Congressman Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, hosted a town hall meeting Monday night with local healthcare experts including Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean, right.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Public Health clinics serve as a safety net for all community members, including the uninsured, she said. 

“We see anyone regardless of their documentation status,  regardless of their ability to pay,” Dean said. “We are a place that welcomes anyone in the door.”

Her statement was followed by a thunderous applause from attendees at the meeting. 

The proposal calls for repealing the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and Dean estimates that in Santa Barbara County, about 11,000 patients would phase out of the program. 

Dodson, from Sansum Clinic, is the president of Central Coast Medical Association, a 700-physician member organization throughout San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. 

He rallied around the idea to improve the ACA, rather than repeal it.

“I’m here as a concerned citizen — an alarmed citizen,” Dodson said. “What a spectacle it is to see Congress taking health care away from the needy.”

The possible loss of jobs was also discussed, with Harris saying the ACA increased employment in California by more than 200,000 jobs. 

Later, Carbajal and the healthcare officials took questions from the audience and participants were also encouraged to hand over any additional questions to Carbajal's staff. 

“We cannot be the victims,” said a woman named Debbie. “We need to stand up and give options.”

A mental health advocate told the lawmaker and panelists that she was concerned about mental health patients possibly losing important treatment and services under the proposal to replace the ACA.

“What’s happening is impacting the neediest of our citizens,” she said. “I’m outraged.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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