House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy hasn't given up on a health care bill, an issue that has taken on added urgency locally with insurance company Anthem announcing it will stop offering Covered California exchange policies in Kern County.

That's what he told The Californian this week, in a one-on-one interview Friday and in a meeting with the editorial board Thursday that covered health care, immigration, transgender members of the military, tax policy and more.

“Obamacare isn’t working,” McCarthy said Friday. “If you can’t make it in California where you have a population that’s 12 percent of the entire nation, the exchange can’t make money. You know why? We don’t let people actually choose what they want.”

He pointed to high rates of people opting out of insurance and taking the tax penalty, premiums rising an average 12.5 percent in California next year, with some counties, including Tulare, seeing spikes as high as 20 percent.

“You have twice as many people willing to do the penalty than sign up for it. All the metrics and measurements of what Obamacare was supposed to do is now passed, and now we’re seeing what is happening,” McCarthy said. “This is why we work so hard to pass a health care bill that would work.”

Anthem announced Aug. 1 that it would pull out of all but 28 counties. Kern County’s exchange policies will end, however plans will still be offered in Stanislaus, Tulare, San Joaquin, Merced and Mariposa counties, among others in Northern California. The retreat impacts about 153,000 Californians who purchased Anthem insurance on the exchange, of whom 5,090 were in Kern County as of March. 

“This was not an easy decision for us. We know that changes like these can have a real impact on the people we serve,” Anthem Blue Cross President Brian Ternan said. “The market for these plans has become unstable. And with federal rules and guidance changing, it’s no longer possible for us to offer some of those plans.”

That leaves Kern County with three providers offering insurance through the Covered California exchange, which was created as a result of the Affordable Care Act: Kaiser, Health Net and Blue Shield of California.

Although McCarthy points to Anthem’s retreat as a sign of the impending collapse of the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," in California, others say it’s a symptom of an uncertain climate borne out of the rhetoric of Republican members of Congress and the Trump administration.

For months, Republicans have made efforts to make good on President Trump’s campaign promise to “repeal and replace” the ACA, and most recently, Trump has threatened to eliminate federal subsidies for insurance companies.

“Part of these departures can be laid at the feet of a president and a Congress that have given nothing but disruption and insecurity to an insurance market that relies on stability and calm and predictability,” said Stephen Schilling, CEO of Clinica Sierra Vista, one of the country's largest federally qualified health care providers, which had about 4,000 patients enrolled in Anthem health plans throughout the Central Valley. 

McCarthy said his party bears no blame in the collapse because nothing in the ACA has changed.

“None of this can be blamed on Republicans because nothing in Obamacare has been changed in the law,” McCarthy said.

Despite that, Anthem’s departure likely won’t create insurmountable strains for consumers forced to find new plans, Schilling said.

That’s because the Affordable Care Act mandated all health plans offer 10 essential benefits, “so essentially, you’ll get the same coverage,” Schilling said.

That’s especially true in Kern County, where a shortage of specialists means that most are signed up for all providers' health plans, Schilling said.

Senators rejected a repeal bill in late July after three Republicans joined with 48 Democrats to block the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was “time to move on” from health care reform. Trump later tweeted, calling on legislators to “let ObamaCare implode, then deal!”

McCarthy said that time has come.

“It’s collapsing in California just like it’s collapsing everywhere in the country,” McCarthy said. “It will have to be dealt with. I see them coming back to it.”

​Harold Pierce can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @RoldyPierce.

(4) comments

Jerry Todd

A long time military journalist friend and I have been trying to get McCarthy to look at a simple, cogent Health Care plan for almost 2 years. Of course, it has been submitted to the Californian numerous times, but neither show any interest. At least three blogs are beginning to feature it and three have submitted to their Congressmen and yo a University study in another state. We'll see.

jfrancais

McCarthy isn't very bright...he normally regurgitates stats and has no what they mean.

Stephen

In making his claims, McCarthy leaves out a lot. He ignores the disruption caused the insurance market by the buffoon in the White House's deliberate and open uncertainty he's leveled on the insurance industry leaving them in a lurch as to what and how to set rates. And not mentioned is the affect on signups caused by newly inaugurated President Trump stopping the TV PSAs reminding people to sign up before the deadline. Saving money? Never mind the big bucks spent by Republicans on a flood of TV ads promising healthcare for everyone, a thin promise that obvious to any observer was patently false. And McCarthy won't take any responsibility for Republicans having 8 years to come up with a plan only to fail because they simply don't get it.

Spoiler alert: Health care is about health care, not making rich people richer, being another market commodity to charge what the market will bare or profit centers for special interests and so forth. Without a single payer system, like some sort of Medicare for all type system, something Republicans with their unrealistic ideology hate, you are simply going to have people out of the system using the emergency rooms etc. You can't have it both ways and with the high costs of medical care with today's technology we need a comprehensive medical care system like the rest of the industrialized world has.

Nevermind

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Seven years of crying and your idea of healthcare is twice as bad as Obamacare. How about Congressmen getting the same deal. Bet it gets better then.

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