U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, health care experts discuss American Health Care Act

Congressman Salud Carbajal and a panel of Santa Barbara County healthcare experts participate in a town hall meeting Monday night.
Congressman Salud Carbajal and a panel of Santa Barbara County healthcare experts participate in a town hall meeting Monday night. Noozhawk photo

Congressman Salud Carbajal and local health care experts emphasized their concerns about the Republican health care 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 health care 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.

Carbajal started off by talking about the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee’s 37-page report released 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 pre-existing 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.

If there’s a congressional act to make Planned Parenthood ineligible for federal funding, Planned Parenthood Central Coast will lose $10 million annually of its $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 health care services.”

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

Noozhawk.com is a Santa Barbara-based news website. Staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter @NoozhawkNews.