By Hannah Brandt
On July 18, Mi Familia Vota held a press conference on healthcare in coordination with several other groups including Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Centro Binacional para el Desarollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO), Planned Parenthood, the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California and Fresno Immigration Coalition. The urgency was palpable.
Pedro Elias of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (Fresno) led the discussion describing the impact on the Valley of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) and implementing the GOP plan for healthcare (often called Trumpcare). He called on Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) to “make a commitment to healthcare for all.” He said that if enacted the new law with its massive cuts to Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid system) would worsen the situation for senior citizens, children and people with mental health needs.
“All Americans will pay more for essential services, higher premiums in the individual market and healthcare basics like pediatric care. Emergency services and prescription medications will become a luxury. Those with the greatest needs will not get it…We all know that Valadao’s district has no Planned Parenthood location. His low-income constituents have to travel to one in another district for maternity services, birth control and mammograms.”
As Hannah Esqueda reported in the Community Alliance newspaper in August 2016, in 2015 alone 8,000 south Fresnans were enrolled in Medi-Cal and Covered California in an effort to get the uninsured covered. She talked to Sandra Celedon-Castro of Fresno’s Building Healthy Communities. “This is where we do most of our work, and it’s based on the fact that these are the Census tracts that have the highest instance of concentrated poverty, highest rates of preventable illness, chronic morbidity, obesity, diabetes, asthma and the highest rates of unemployment,” Celedon-Castro said. “All of these are the kind of indicators that we know are linked to unhealthy outcomes.”
At the press conference, Nu Vang of the Fresno Center for New Americans described her experience as a young single woman without healthcare. She developed a condition that if it had gone untreated the left side of her face would have become paralyzed. Without Medi-Cal, this would have been her reality. She said, “We celebrate the failure of AHCA [the American Health Care Act, the first version of the GOP health plan], but our work is not done. We must keep fighting to preserve ACA. We call on all lawmakers to ensure healthcare for all.”
Melissa Hurtado, an advocate from Fresno Barrios Unidos, said, “Healthcare is not a partisan issue. For too many, their concern is their livelihood. Under this plan, healthcare will be out of reach for them. Republican lawmakers need to talk to their constituents and they will see it’s not good for them.”
She went on to say that although the GOP did not appear to have the votes to pass their revised plan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) has said that he will continue working to dismantle not just ACA but the whole healthcare system.
Jennifer Rosas, an immigrant rights activist from the Bay Area organization SIREN, discussed the potentially devastating impact on Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) recipients. These are young people (the oldest are now 35 years old) who were brought to the United States from other countries by their parents as children. As the children of immigrants with often meager resources, DACA individuals may be one of the groups most negatively affected by Trumpcare.
“We remain vigilant and concerned because healthcare for immigrants and refugees is vital. People go bankrupt from lack of healthcare coverage. This cannot be a luxury for a select few, it should be for everyone. Under this program, there are new threats to DACA, which would be dire. In California, DACA recipients get Medi-Cal.”
Rosas said, “I will fight any policy that put that in jeopardy. It is not a battle because everyone will lose. Those who are silenced, we are fighting for them…We have diversity here in Fresno, which represents the diversity of the nation.”
Reza Nekumanesh from the Islamic Cultural Center declared that “[in the Unites States] we have the ability to provide healthcare to every man, woman and child. People should not have to choose between groceries and healthcare, between healthcare and utilities or rent. Denying people healthcare due to preexisting conditions is not justice. We cannot continue to have the same partisan fight… We must stand with those marginalized marching for healthcare rights. Those with power will not lose. If not healthcare for all, then what else will make America great?”
Elias closed the conference with this message for Rep. Devin Nunes (R–Tulare): “Make healthcare a priority, something in your heart. Healthcare is a human right.” Fifty-one percent of Tulare County is enrolled in Medi-Cal.
On the afternoon of July 25, Senate Republicans narrowly voted to proceed to floor debate on their healthcare plan. Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie. A few hours later, however, the Senate voted down the proposed repeal and replacement of Obamacare. Further attempts to do so are expected.
(Editor’s Note: The printed version of Community Alliance misspelled Melissa Hurtado’s last name as Furtado. We apologize for the error.)
Hannah Brandt is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @HannahBP2. Follow the paper on Facebook at Community Alliance Newspaper and on Twitter and Instagram @fresnoalliance.