Obamacare repeal effort ignites protests of California House Republicans

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks as Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., listen during a news conference on health care on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks as Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., listen during a news conference on health care on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017 in Washington, D.C. TNS

Mass protests this week are targeting California’s 14 House Republicans, with activists seeking to pressure them to oppose the latest Republican Obamacare repeal proposal from Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

California would be hardest hit state in the nation, with an estimated cut of $28 billion to its health care system by 2026, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Other states that would face severe budget cuts include New York, Massachusetts and Maryland.

Activist groups, including the Courage Campaign and Indivisible, will protest outside the office of Republican Congressman Ed Royce, in Brea, Thursday at 11 a.m. Protestors are scheduled at the offices of Rep. David Valadao on Thursday in Bakersfield and Friday in Hanford, both at 4 p.m. Other House Republicans, including Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, Steve Knight of Lancaster, Jeff Denham of Turlock and Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel, were the focus of other protests this week organized by the advocacy group Health Access.

“This new effort by Senators Graham and Cassidy is even worse than previous proposals for all states, with disproportionate and devastating cuts for California and our health system,” said Anthony Wright, the group’s executive director. “Our California Congressmembers – even the 14 Representatives that voted for previous ... repeal bills – need to denounce this Graham-Cassidy proposal and make it clear that if it ever passed the Senate, it would be rejected in the House.”

Wright called cutting health care dollars from California’s budget “explicit and intentional,” referring to comments Rick Santorum made in Breitbart, explaining that “What you can do is redistribute this money that has been heaped upon these four ultra blue, very wealthy states by the way, and don’t need a lot of federal support because they’re very wealthy states.”

The Graham-Cassidy proposal would cut funding for Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health care program that covers nearly 14 million people, get rid of cost-sharing subsidies for those who purchase insurance on the Covered California exchange, scrap income-based tax credits to help low- and middle-income people lower the cost of insurance premiums and eliminate the employer and individual mandates that require insurance coverage. Federal funding for California’s expansion of Medi-Cal, which extended coverage to about 4 million people, would expire. States would retain some federal health care money as block grants, giving state officials the choice to spend the money as they see fit. The UC Berkeley Labor Center has estimated the potential losses in each of California’s 58 counties.

President Donald Trump urged passage, and Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield endorsed the bill, saying on Twitter that “#Obamcare is failing. #Graham-Cassidy returns control to states and empowers them to innovate and stabilize costs.”

California Democrats blasted the proposal, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein saying “it’s appalling that...Senate Republicans would take federal funds that provide health care to Californians and give them to Republican-leaning states,” and Sen. Kamala Harris saying “Now is the time to fight.”

Senate Republicans have until Sept. 30 to come up with the 51 votes needed to pass the health care bill. Republicans control 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats.

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WORTH REPEATING: “The bill risks the safety of good law enforcement officers and the safety of the neighborhoods that need their protection the most.” – Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on California’s ‘sanctuary state’ legislation.

CLIMATE TALKS: Gov. Jerry Brown, in Washington, D.C. this week, will discuss California’s efforts to reduce the flow of heat-trapping emissions into the atmosphere. The “courage on climate action” discussion is part of a larger event called “We The Future,” hosted by the Palo Alto-based Skoll Foundation and the United Nations Foundation, and aimed at promoting sustainable development across the globe.

MUST READ: Why do state lawmakers spend so much time debating resolutions?

GOVERNMENT PAY: State Controller Betty Yee released 2016 data this week on government pay earned by employees of special districts across California.

Top income earners? Health care executives.

Of the 10 highest-paid special district employees, nine worked for health care districts last year, with a top salary of $1.24 million for a chief executive officer in San Francisco, according to the data.

Other top-paid CEOs in Alameda and San Diego pulled roughly $1 million per year, in addition to more than $100,000 in retirement and health care benefits.

U.S.-MEXICO RELATIONS: Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. on changes to the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship, especially in agriculture and manufacturing. University of California President Janet Napolitano moderates the event, slated to begin at 12:30 p.m. at the University of California, Washington Center.

Geronimo Gutierrez, Mexican ambassador to the U.S., will also speak, as well as Maria Echaveste, a senior fellow at the UC Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies and co-founder of the Nueva Vista Group, a Washington D.C.-based consulting firm.

STATE EMPLOYEE FOOD DRIVE: The California State Employees Food Drive kicks off Thursday. Donations of fruits, vegetables and cash will be accepted from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Capitol Mall Farmers Market in Sacramento. Cash donations will be used to purchase fresh produce for those in need.

This year’s goal is to pull in 800,000 pounds of food, surpassing last year’s total of 764,000 pounds, according to Karen Ross, secretary of the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

CELEBRATE: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, who turns 35 today and Assemblyman Randy Voepel, R-Santee, who turns 67 today.