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Health advocates predict repeal-and-replace bill will have dire consequences in Valley

The new repeal-and-replace legislation passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday is not much different than the original Republican healthcare bill that nobody seemed to want in March.

Health advocates renewed their dire predictions for low-income residents and people who struggle to buy health insurance in Stanislaus and other counties in the Central Valley.

“It will still have a devastating effect on many of the counties in the Central Valley, where 40 to 50 percent of the population are on Medi-Cal,” said Jen Flory, a policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

The latest plan, like the first one, includes caps on federal Medicaid funding for states, prompting experts to release the same bullet points on the impacts in California. The bill is expected to:

▪  Reverse expanded eligibility in the Medi-Cal program that covered 3.7 million California residents under the Affordable Care Act.

▪  Result in a $24 billion cut to the Medi-Cal program and the state budget over 10 years.

▪  Result in a reduction in subsidies, and sharp premium increases for families and single adults who buy affordable insurance through the Covered California exchange.

▪  Increase the charity-care burden for hospitals in Stanislaus and other counties that treat Medi-Cal patients and people covered through the ACA.

In Stanislaus County, about 65,000 residents were enrolled in Medi-Cal due to the expansion of eligibility.

The new bill would gradually diminish federal matching funds for the Medi-Cal program, forcing state leaders to make hard decisions on cutting health services, reducing payments to healthcare providers or continuing with the Medi-Cal expansion.

“There would be a massively large hole in California’s budget and no way to fill the hole without making cuts to Medi-Cal,” said Hannah Katch, a senior policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) in Washington, D.C.