Valley Republicans praised, scorned over vote to repeal Obamacare

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, during an earlier hearing in Fresno. He was among Republicans voting Thursday to repeal Obamacare.
Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, during an earlier hearing in Fresno. He was among Republicans voting Thursday to repeal Obamacare. Vida en el Valle

Supporters of Obamacare in the central San Joaquin Valley quickly denounced Thursday’s vote by Republican representatives for the American Health Care Act, a measure to repeal and replace the existing health care law, and said voters will remember.

But Valley critics of Obamacare applauded their congressmen for voting to scrap what they said is a disastrous health care law.

Rep. David Valadao of Hanford was among the Republicans voting for the American Health Care Act.

Other Valley Republicans voting for the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act: Jeff Denham of Turlock, Devin Nunes of Tulare, Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and Tom McClintock of Elk Grove.

The GOP passed the act Thursday on a 217-213 vote. An attempt to pass a repeal and replacement bill in March was scrapped then by Republicans who could not agree its contents.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, voted against the revamped repeal and replacement bill on Thursday. Costa said the legislation “made a disastrous health care bill even worse.”

If the American Health Care Act becomes law, Costa said “millions of Americans, including many of our friends and neighbors in the San Joaquin Valley, will either see their health care costs rise substantially or they will completely lose their coverage.”

The American Health Care Act now heads to the Senate, where it has tougher prospects.

Outrage over the Republicans’ vote came swiftly from organizations in the Valley that have supported Obamacare. The act passed by the House will jeopardize health care for 500,000 people in the Central Valley, they said.

“This is heartless,” said Rabbi Rick Winer, president of Faith in the Valley, an organization representing 120-plus congregations from Stockton to Bakersfield.

Sandra Celedon, head of the Building Healthy Communities intiative in Fresno, said if the repeal goes into effect “it’s going to have a huge impact to the Fresno County economy. The county gutted the medically indigent program and over 150,000 folks newly eligible (for Medi-Cal) across the county will be left without health care and that responsibility will shift back to the county.”

Nunes said in a statement after the vote that the House took a step to create a program with better care and lower prices.

“Central Valley residents have been saddled for far too long with high prices, while many Medi-Cal participants are burdened by minimal health care choices, with some participants even forced to travel to the Bay Area or Los Angeles to see specialists. The bill passed by the House today will make health care available to every American who wants it while protecting those with pre-existing conditions.”

Valadao said in a statement that Obamacare had failed to deliver on its promises for the best health-care options for Central Valley residents. “The American Health Care Act will stabilize our health-care system, ensuring our community has access to high quality, affordable health care,” he said.

Valadao and Denham also released a joint written statement casting blame on Gov. Jerry Brown for Californians’ health care problems.

“At the cost of families in rural California, Governor Brown has prioritized access to health care for those living in urban areas and along the coast over those most in need in the Central Valley,” they said. “If he truly cared about ensuring all Californians had access to health care, he would work to improve Medicaid reimbursement rates for the most prosperous state in the nation.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee said Valadao kept his promise to the American people by voting to repeal and replace Obamacare. “While Democrats fight desperately to keep the failed status quo in place, David Valadao is moving foward with a plan to improve access to health care and lower costs for California families,” said Jack Pandol, the group’s western regional press secretary.

Michael Der Manouel, Jr., chairman of the Lincoln Club of Fresno County, said Valadao and Denham and the other Valley representatives showed courage in their votes. They took a brave “step to fix an absurd program,” he said. The federal government has borrowed money to encourage people to participate in Obamacare and to bring insurance companies on board, but it’s been to little avail, he said. “They’re ignoring massive amounts of evidence that it’s failing.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which goes by the DCCC, said Valadao voted to increase health insurance premiums and deductibles and toss 24 million Americans off their insurance.

The Republicans’ votes will likely be highlighted by Democrats when election season returns next year.

Valadao’s vote is important because the majority of voters in his 21st District are Democrats. Hillary Clinton also carried the 21st District by 15 percentage points over Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election.

Though Valadao has withstood Democratic challengers in previous elections, the party plans to use this health-care vote in its arguments to defeat the Hanford dairyman next year.

Winer said the Republican seats now held by Valadao and Denham are considered particularly “flippable.” “Several of our Central Valley representatives are not quite as solid as either they would like or they think,” he said.

“I hope that each of our representatives who voted for this realize that there are a lot of voters who may not be able to afford health care anymore, but they can afford to go to the polls,” Winer said.

“Make no mistake about it, the DCCC said: Valadao “must look his constituents in the eye, and answer for the mess he created. There is no question that this bill will cause incredible pain for hardworking Americans, particularly those fighting to make ends meet, and his vote will haunt Valadao through Election Day.”

Barbara Anderson: 559-441-6310, @beehealthwriter