As our region works to protect community health in response to last week’s heat wave, we must brace ourselves for a potent new attack on public health as the United States Senate moves forward with repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This threat is real and will affect the lives of many of our local residents.

Tens of thousands of North Bay residents have benefited from the expansion of Medi-Cal and affordable individual coverage through the ACA. Nationally over 20 million Americans have gained coverage since the ACA became law.

Despite heavy criticism of the legislation from stakeholders on both sides of the aisle and demonstrably little public support for the proposed legislation, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) will likely go to a vote on the Senate floor. If the repeal effort is successful, the ramifications will be felt in communities across America, and, in particular, here in the North Bay.

Our fellow residents, our friends and colleagues, including some of our most in-need neighbors will bear the brunt of this flawed bill. Our community will lose out, jobs will be lost, as the ripple effects of constriction in the health care sector are felt in our local economy.

Our Community Health Center strongly opposes the AHCA and any other attempts to repeal the ACA. The Medicaid expansion has provided insurance coverage to many of our patients who were previously uninsured, and those patients can now access comprehensive preventative care. The AHCA may wipe away these historic gains and will eliminate many of the crucial protective components of the ACA.

In addition, the AHCA is posed to strip billions out of the Medicaid system through block grants and/or per-capita caps, which would inevitably lead to cuts in service and eligibility that would affect many of our community members.

The Senate’s passage of the AHCA or similar legislation would undermine a successful individual health insurance market here in California and chill future advances in innovation to increase the quality of care, improve health outcomes and lower health care costs. Medicare has also directly benefitted thanks to the ACA, with revenues and reforms included in the ACA helping to extend the life of the Medicare program.

If these ACA taxes on the affluent are removed, we could see a serious impact to the financial stability of Medicare as a whole.

The impact of the ACA has been profound in our local community. Since the ACA became law in 2010, county government, public and private hospitals, doctors, Community Health Centers and many other groups have worked together to ensure that the ACA’s key provisions have expanded coverage, improved health care, and resulted in a healthier community.

Furthermore, over 12,000 Napa County residents have directly benefited from the ACA through coverage expansions in Medi-Cal and Covered California. Having affordable health care has allowed Napa County residents to spend their incomes on rent, food, and other basic needs, supporting our local economies.

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There is no question that the misconceived repeal legislation will have ramifications on our local health care system and broader economy. According to the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center, roll back of the ACA could generate a loss of up to 400 jobs in Napa County and a net annual loss of over $41 million in Napa County alone.

Through the advances in health coverage and access to care brought about by the Affordable Care Act, many Americans have begun to view access to affordable health care as a right and not a privilege to be bestowed on only those who can afford to pay. At this critical juncture, when so much hangs in the balance, we must speak out and protect the gains that have been made for Americans through the ACA.

The American Health Care Act passed in the House, and similar legislation that will soon come to the Senate for a vote is neither a suitable replacement for the ACA nor is it the healthcare reform plan that Americans want, need, or deserve.

Tanir Ami, Chief Executive Officer

OLE Health