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American Canyon Eagle: Congressman Thompson discusses the future of healthcare with Napa seniors

Feb 1, 2017
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MARIA SESTITO

Rep. Mike Thompson visited Napa Valley Care Center on Friday morning to answer questions from seniors and medical professionals about the future of healthcare coverage under the Trump Administration.

The first question came quietly from 70-year-old Gwyn Bissell.

“She hasn’t heard any specifics to what the replacement for the Affordable Care Act would be,” Thompson said. “There’s a reason why she hasn’t. There’s no replacement.”


Despite criticism of the Affordable Care Act, which is often referred to as Obamacare, Thompson said that there are parts of the legislation that are popular with an overwhelming majority of the country, including the provisions protecting those with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ healthcare plans until age 26.

“Everybody wants to save those components,” he said. “You can’t save them by themselves because it becomes costly to do that, that’s why the rest of the act is important.”

“I had a question about the Medi-Cal block grants,” said Julie DeSoto, a long-term care field ombudsman for Napa County. “So from what I understand the money is going to go each state. Does it have to be spent on Medi-Cal or is it going to go into a slush fund? How are we gonna know where the funds are going?”

Thompson said that most states would probably have some sort of protection in place to ensure that the money goes to Medicaid coverage, which in California would be Medi-Cal.

“Some states – you’re right – some states will try and play fast and loose with that,” he told DeSoto.

“On the Medicare side, the idea is to give everybody a voucher,” Thompson said. Individuals with vouchers would take those vouchers into the community and find their own healthcare, he said.

“And you know what would happen. Automatically that would become the floor and it would go up from there, so insurance companies would say ‘OK, thank you for your – whatever it is — $1,000 voucher, you owe me $1,000 more.’”

Thompson said that there are, of course, things that need to be changed about the Affordable Care Act, but there has never been any piece of legislation that was written perfectly. “The minute the ink is dry,” he said, “things start changing and you need to constantly address those unintended consequences and changes that happen in the world.”

“The thing that is offensive to a lot of people is this mandate that you have to buy insurance,” Thompson said. “Maybe I just don’t understand that way of thinking, but I don’t see that as being un-American or a problem. You gotta have health coverage, either that or you just gotta not go to the doctor or get sick.”

“We can’t have it both ways,” he said.

“It would affect a lot of us here,” said Jeff Jamieson, administrator at Napa Valley Care Center. About 85 percent of the people at the skilled care facility are covered by either Medicare or Medi-Cal, he said.

“What do you see five years from now,” he asked Thompson, “how this really playing out?”

“I don’t know,” Thompson said. “I’m worried about the next two years and I’m worried about making sure that we can preserve Medicare and that we can preserve access to quality, affordable healthcare.”

Although there have been people who complained that their copayments and other costs increased when the Affordable Care Act was enacted, Thompson said that the data doesn’t support that.

“Sure, some copays went up. Sure, some healthcare costs went up but overall the increase in healthcare is the lowest now than it’s been in the last 20 years,” he said. Without the Affordable Care Act, healthcare costs were going to increase anyway, he said.

If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, he said, people with preexisting conditions will become financially strapped since the provision protecting them will also be gone.

“If you have a kid who is 8 years old or 15 years old and diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, this is gonna follow them for the rest of their life,” Thompson said.

Jamieson said costs that aren’t covered, like particular medicines, add up quickly. When his son was diagnosed with cancer nine years ago, he said he had to sell his home and move in with in-laws in order pay for his son’s medical coverage. It’s a long-term problem, he said, and it affects more than just seniors.

“Cancer doesn’t strike just liberals or just conservatives, cancer strikes everybody,” Thompson said. “We’re all susceptible to these medical tragedies.”

Thompson said that people need to tell their stories and make sure that people know that this issue is important to them – share them with their representatives and their communities. Write letters to the editor and speak at public meetings, he said.

“I was very concerned about what would happen to our Medicare and he answered all the questions that I had,” said Delores Sisler, 87. “I feel a lot better.”

Just hours after Thompon’s visit to Napa Valley Care Center, his office sent out a press release in response to the White House ending its outreach on open enrollment for Obamacare. Although open enrollment through HealthCare.gov lasts until Jan. 31, the White House said that it will not be going through with an advertising campaign aimed at getting younger adults to enroll in healthcare before deadline, according to Thompson’s office.

Thompson said that the move is “irresponsible.” Despite the fact that President Trump wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it is still in place and that Americans have a right to know when open enrollment ends, he said.

In California, outreach and marketing is coordinated through Covered California, and will continue as planned, Thompson’s office said. California residents can sign up for health insurance at coveredca.com.

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