By Andrew Gregg
President Donald Trump has taken steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, sparking concern over the potential loss of health insurance for nearly 18 million Americans — including Cuesta College students and part-time faculty.
As of yet, there has been no clear replacement plan announced, causing many San Luis Obispo residents, college students and faculty to be fearful that they will be left with no health care insurance.
Just hours after his inauguration, Trump signed the executive order intended to kickstart the process of fulfilling one of the his major campaign promises, with the order stating that “it is the policy of my [President Trump’s] Administration to seek the prompt repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act[…]”
The ACA, a controversial health care policy, prohibits health insurers from refusing to cover those with a pre-existing condition, and allows children to stay on their parents health-care plan until age 26–conditions which President Trump has expressed support for.
However, repealing the ACA could leave millions nationwide–and thousands in SLO county–without access to health care.
“A repeal to the ACA would eliminate access to coverage for many people–those with pre-existing conditions, young people–and make insurance much more expensive by eliminating the federal subsidies for premiums and other costs,” said Joel Diringer, founder of Diringer and Associates, a SLO-based health policy consulting firm.
“In addition, those who are included in the Medi-Cal ‘expansion’ population would lose coverage,” Diringer said.
Among those included in the Medi-Cal expansion are over 18,000 SLO county residents, according to a U.C. Berkeley Labor Center report.
People with health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, Hep C, or mental health conditions–as well as farmworkers who are covered by their employers–would also be adversely affected by the loss of coverage and increased costs associated with a repeal of the ACA, according to Diringer. College students and other low-income citizens would lose coverage as well, he said.
The repeal of the ACA will not directly affect the services provided by Cuesta College, however.
“Any changes in the ACA will not impact how students might utilize our services as we do not bill outside insurance providers for our services,” said Joan Duffy, student health services coordinator for Cuesta’s Health Center. “All services provided by Health Services are paid for by the student health fee.”
For now, the president’s plan to repeal and replace the ACA may have to wait until next year.
President Trump said in a February interview that legislation for the ACA’s replacement will be completed by the end of 2017, or possibly sometime in 2018.
Many politicians, however, have criticized the president’s plan to repeal the ACA with no clear plan to replace it. Among those critics is representative for California’s 24th district–which includes San Luis Obispo county–Rep. Salud Carbajal.
He shared his concerns in a January speech to Congress — his first as congressmember.
“Today, over 45,000 of my constituents have access to reliable, affordable health care coverage, thanks to the Affordable Care Act,” Carbajal said.
He went on to praise the benefits of the ACA, saying that without it many seniors would not be able to afford their prescription drugs, and many children born with birth-defects would have been denied coverage.
Carbajal also called the effort to repeal the ACA without a clear replacement “reckless governance.”
Despite criticisms of his plan, President Trump has maintained that the ACA has been a “disaster” for many Americans.
While a repeal could mean the loss of health insurance for many, the specific ramifications of the president’s plan on SLO residents remain unclear, according to Michelle Shoresman, division manager of the San Luis Obispo County health agency.
“The precise implications of an ACA repeal on local residents is unknown at this point,” Shoresman said. “Until it becomes clear what a repeal might include, no one will really know.”
To read the complete articles from Cuesta in the time of Trump package check out the Cuestonian newspaper March 7.