Editorials

Denham’s fig leaf can’t cover up harm he’s done by voting to repeal ACA

House Speaker Paul Ryan takes congratulatory handshakes after he led the fight to repeal Obamacare and replace it with his own plan; Rep. Jeff Denham voted for Ryan’s plan.
House Speaker Paul Ryan takes congratulatory handshakes after he led the fight to repeal Obamacare and replace it with his own plan; Rep. Jeff Denham voted for Ryan’s plan. AP

Before the November election, The Bee’s editorial board reluctantly endorsed Jeff Denham’s opponent – the woefully unqualified Michael Eggman – because we couldn’t abide Denham’s support of Donald Trump. As we said then, if Trump won, having Denham in office would only make things worse.

How much worse?

How about losing healthcare coverage for 100,000 of Denham’s constituents? How about losing 7,000 healthcare jobs in his district? How about losing funding for clinics and programs aimed at the poor – in a district with thousands of poor people.

This is exactly what Jeff Denham’s vote to repeal the ACA could deliver. It’s what we feared.

Thursday’s vote in the House of Representatives – in which 20 principled Republicans voted no – doesn’t make it a done deal. The legislation must go through the Senate, where Democrats might be able to modify some of its worst provisions. But what Ryan has wrought, and Donald Trump flogged into existence, is a terrible bill that will harm millions of people, drive millions back into emergency rooms for treatment and deprive children, the already-sick, the elderly and even veterans of affordable health insurance.

Last week, it appeared Denham experienced a change of heart. Having faced 1,000 constituents – roughly 750 of them angry over his support for Trumpcare (aka, #don’tcare) – he was reported by both the Los Angeles Times and The Hill as being a “no” vote.

That was never true.

Wednesday night, Denham affixed his name to the Upton Amendment – a fig leaf meant to give moderate Republicans cover by increasing federal subsidies for policies covering those with pre-existing conditions.

President Trump promised those with pre-existing conditions – cancer, heart disease, pregnancy, diabetes – would have “beautiful” coverage. But he didn’t say how. Ryan’s bill pushes most of them into high-risk pools where they can buy government-subsidized policies. His AHCA bill only put $130 billion into those subsidies, even though the Center for American Progress says the actual cost will be $327 billion.

The Upton amendment bumped the subsidy by $8 billion; a pittance spread over 5 years. If subsidies are inadequate, many will forgo insurance and end up back in the ERs.

A study by the Urban Institute showed the number of uninsured veterans dropped 42 percent under Obamacare. The only states in which veterans’ health didn’t improve were those that refused Medicaid expansion – states now the model for Trumpcare.

The Republicans know 24 million people will eventually lose health-care insurance. They say most of those are young and healthy people who shouldn’t be forced to buy insurance. But others say 14 million are low-income, blue-collar workers; many with families.

What happens when those healthy, young, uninsured people get sick or suffer an accident? They’ll head to the emergency rooms, to join veterans and those suffering pre-existing conditions in the queue.

Ryan built some long fuses into his bill, meaning the worst impacts won’t be felt until after he’s been re-elected in 2018. But by 2018, insurance rates will be 15 percent higher, says the Congressional Budget Office. By 2020, they’ll be up 20 to 25 percent. They could begin to inch back down by 2027, but don’t count on it.

A study by UC Berkeley says 62,300 people in Stanislaus and 73,750 people in San Joaquin counties have insurance only because of Obamacare. It says without the ACA, 7,000 health-care related jobs will be lost in Jeff Denham’s district.

Those are your voters, Jeff Denham. Your vote Thursday will make their lives much worse.

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