S. Monique Limón
Paul Wellman (file)

Congressional proposals to radically change the delivery of federal funds for California’s health care coverage of the poor would mean many people lose insurance while those who still have it would pay higher rates, Santa Barbara Assemblymember Monique Limon said this week.

Republicans in Washington are moving aggressively to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

One crucial feature of the 2009 health insurance reform is a current federal commitment to cover many more low-income people than previously under the Medicaid program. Several proposals to repeal Obamacare would replace that program with a flat payment block grant that could drastically reduce payments to states.

“The block grant won’t cover everyone or even nearly as many of the individuals covered now,” Limon said in an interview at last Saturday’s local Women’s March. “If they enact block grants…it means less people will have access….The less people have access, they end up in our emergency rooms and we end up paying for it.”

Limon’s comments are significant because she is positioned in Sacramento to play an influential role in crafting the state’s response to the GOP’s speedy action to repeal Obamacare, which has been a Republican campaign promise since Democrats, who then controlled both the executive and legislative branches, passed the Affordable Care Act on party line votes.

It is unclear what, if any, coverage plan Republicans will approve to replace Obamacare, which has provided medical care for millions of people who previously had no health insurance.

In California, Obamacare has cut the state’s uninsured ranks by half: More than one million consumers now buy insurance through a subsidized health care exchange, while four million low-income adults receive new Medicaid benefits.

However, it relies on about $20 billion of federal funds, and the state would face a grim crisis if millions lose insurance.

Limon, who was also recently appointed to the Democratic Assembly team as Assistant Majority Whip, even though she is a freshman member, said the Health Committee “will be a very big, important committee” in trying to ease the effect of the repeal.

Nationally, the New York Times reported this week, Medicaid costs more than $500 billion a year, and serves more than 70 million people – nearly one-fourth of the population.

“Many folks in California are very worried about the cuts to the Affordable Care Act, the cuts potentially to Medicare (coverage for the elderly), and Medi-Cal (the state’s Medicaid program) reimbursement rates, so we are projecting a $20 billion gap if this all goes through,” Limon said.

“This is going to be a very big deal for California.”


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