Don’t agonize, organize to save the Affordable Care Act

Jeff vonKaenel

On Saturday morning, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock and Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui were busy. They were busy being members of Congress in the time of Trump. McClintock was at a town hall meeting at El Dorado Hills High School, facing more than 1,700 people—the vast majority of whom were upset about recent changes in immigration policy and proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, Matsui was in West Sacramento holding a “Don’t Agonize, Organize” meeting with 100 activists, brainstorming ways to save the ACA. The previous week, Matsui held an official town hall meeting at Sutter Middle School to discuss the same subject. On that day, she met with around 600 people, most of whom asked her to work to save the ACA.

The West Sacramento forum was a political event sponsored by the Matsui for Congress organization. It was moderated by West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, who pointed out the key role that Matsui played in the creation of the ACA when Democrats had the majority in Congress. And now Matsui sits on the U.S. House Subcommittee on Health. In normal times, she would be playing a key role in crafting changes to the ACA.

But the House Republicans are working in secret. Until this week, the Democrats had not even seen, let alone been able to comment on, the proposed bill to change or repeal the ACA. Matsui expects that the Republicans will try to jam the bill through in the next few weeks without input or even adequate hearings.

Speaking at the forum, Health Access Executive Director and consumer advocate Anthony Wright commented on a leaked draft of the Republican plan. Wright pointed out that 80 percent of the ACA Medicare tax is paid by American millionaires. The Republican plan would eliminate that tax on the super-rich and leave a gigantic hole in the federal budget. The Republicans will need to fix that hole.

This draft of the Republican plan would deny coverage to many people who are currently receiving coverage, saving money. Wright said that many more Americans would be taxed on their employer-based health care benefits. The wealthy would receive a gigantic tax break, and the rest of us would pay higher taxes. The Republicans hope to pass the bill before people find out what is in it.

Many Republicans made campaign pledges to keep the good parts of the ACA: retaining expanded access to health care; continuing to allow people with preexisting conditions to get health care insurance; and allowing parents to keep children on their plans until age 26. Republicans claimed they were only going to get rid of the unpopular parts of the ACA. However, these campaign promises cannot be accomplished in the real world.

The public needs to understand what will happen to their health care under this plan. Members of Congress need to hear from people who have benefited from the ACA and from those who don’t support the Republican agenda of lower taxes for the rich and fewer benefits for the poor and middle class. If we don’t agonize but, rather, organize, perhaps we can convince enough Republican members of Congress to support the people in their district, rather than going along with the Republican leadership.

On Saturday, 1,800 people were organizing, not agonizing.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.