On the eve of the House’s long-awaited, nail-biter vote to undo and replace Obamacare, 20 Kern County residents rallied in front of Congressman David Valadao’s Bakersfield office Thursday evening urging people to call on their representatives to vote against it.
The House was scheduled to vote on the controversial American Health Care Act on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act passing, but then leaders punted it to Friday so legislation supporters could lock in the needed votes.
"I think it’s a joke,” Julie Otero, 53, said of the bill, "because where’s the ‘better’? All I see is destruction.”
Otero, a board member of the United Domestic Workers Kern Chapter, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and hypertension. She said the repeal would hurt her health and finances.
“People will start dropping like flies,” Otero said, adding some will lose their homes as they try to pay for health care.
“What is going to happen if they cut health care?” Otero asked. “People dying on the streets. Who is going to be responsible for that?”
Sandy Reding, 57, has been a nurse for more than 30 years. She currently works as an operating room nurse, and said she has seen what happens when people do get the health care they need and when they don’t.
“There is a high propensity for diabetes in this town,” Reding said. “If they can’t maintain their health, then we have to amputate a leg.”
While she said she would like to see existing health care insurance programs stay and grow, she advocated for a single-payer health insurance bill going through the California legislature, SB 562. The bill is sponsored by the California Nurses Association and is in the beginning stages of consideration.
Robin Fernandez, 60, meanwhile, said she has a sister and nephews who have healthcare coverage because of the ACA.
“Let’s not throw out the wheel,” Fernandez said about the repeal. “Let’s go ahead and fix what’s broken about it.”
Valadao's office said the congressman could not say how he will vote until he sees the final version of the bill.
Earlier this month, Valadao, R-Hanford, had not taken a public position on what the GOP had proposed.
“It is clear Obamacare is destroying our healthcare system and it is absolutely critical we repeal and replace the failed law," he said in a statement March 16. "However, I have concerns regarding the American Health Care Act and its ability to effectively meet the needs of my constituents. As the bill works through the legislative process, I will continue to advocate on behalf of my constituents and their healthcare needs.”
Bakersfield’s other congressman, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is a chief supporter and expressed confidence in a CNN interview Thursday afternoon that there would be enough votes to get the legislation passed.
“We need a couple more to get together,” he told Dana Bash.
He cautioned Friday’s vote would only be on the first phase of replacing the health care law because of complicated Senate rules. He went on to promise that through the policy changes he and his colleagues want to make, people will see lower premiums and more healthcare options.